We thought you might like to read some of the coverage in the press about the Office of Homeless Services. Links are below – just click on the down arrow to read the articles.
We are also including links to articles in the press/media pertinent to homelessness.
Press About Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services
Oct 3, 2017, Curbed Philadelphia, by Melissa Romero
Liz Hersh to head up Mayor Kenney’s new task force to help fight city’s eviction crisis
Mayor Jim Kenney announced that he has put together a 27-person task force to address the city’s eviction crisis.
Show You Care Launched
The Office of Homeless Services launched “Show You Care, But Not Right Here,” a new effort to reduce panhandling and help with homelessness. Instead of giving money to panhandlers and homeless persons you can donate through a text to 80077, type Share and you contribute $5. Donations are matched by the City and the money goes to homeless service providers
Homeless Families Search For Shelter Before School Starts
August 22, 2016
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia shelters for homeless familiesare full at a time of year when demand is surging because of the start of the school year.
It’s a yearly problem with no apparent short-term solution.
Homeless Services director Liz Hersh calls it “the August phenomenon.”
“Moms come in because they want to get their children settled before school starts. They want to get an address, which just breaks my heart because what they’re trying to do is have a better life for their children, and they’re doing the only thing they can with the resources they have,” said Hersh.
And Hersh, in turn, does the only thing she can with the resources she has: ask, “do you have nowhere else to go?”
Hersh says with family shelters full, only extreme cases, such as domestic abuse, get priority. Otherwise, they’re encouraged to squeeze in with friends, family, or rooms where perhaps they’re not on a lease.
Hersh says that’s healthier in the long run, because research shows children who’ve been in the shelter system do poorly physically and mentally.
She says the real problem is not emergency shelter but affordable housing. And the city is studying ways to get more families permanently housed.
DNC Homeless Strategy Has Lasting Impact For Some In Phila.
August 1, 2016
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Democratic National Convention may have been life-changing for many people, perhaps none more than 35 Philadelphians who were homeless and are now transitioning into housing because of stepped up outreach efforts during the event.
The city spent $86,000 on 20 additional outreach workers and 100 additional shelter beds designated for “respite” during the convention.
Office of Homeless Services director Liz Hersh says the outreach workers had contact with 600 people and 75 used the respite beds, including four couples, two dogs, a cat and a parakeet (and their owners).
Of those, Hersh says, 35 have decided to come off the street:
“We’ve been able to get some people into drug treatment, we’re getting some people into safe havens, which are very supportive, what they call low barrier shelters. We’re getting some people into rapid rehousing.”
She says it’s a larger lesson for the city:
“When we have the dedicated resources and when we have a good strategy, we can help people come in, they start to rest and get fed and clean and cool and safe and they start to be able to think about the future differently.”
The effort included providing information to visitors through hand cards with tips for helping the homeless. Hersh says the city will continue distributing the cards.
City’s DNC Plans Include A Homeless Strategy
July 1, 2016
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia will increase the number of outreach workers and shelter beds for homeless people during the Democratic National Convention.
It will also offer tips to visitors on how to help, including suggesting they make donations to a city fund to end homelessness.
Office of Supportive Housing Director Liz Hersh says this is not an effort to hide the city’s homeless population but an extension of a two-month-old strategy of focusing outreach efforts on so-called “hot spots,” with the highest concentrations of unsheltered homeless people.
Those happen also to be the places most visited by tourists: Rittenhouse Square, transit stations, and the Convention Center.
With thousands of visitors expected, Hersh says the city is taking an approach similar to the one that preceded the Pope’s visit.
“We’re letting people who are living on the street know that there will be large crowds, that there will be an increased police presence, secret service presence, that there are areas that will be inaccessible,” she says.
The office expects to spend an additional $86,000 on the effort, which will include 20 additional outreach workers and 100 additional shelter beds.
“We’re surveying them to find out what they would like and we will be offering respite to get in away from the crowds, to be safe, to be cool,” she says.
Hersh says the targeted outreach has already been a success.
“It’s actually exceeded everyone’s expectations,” she says. “We’ve gotten some additional requests to expand the hot spots and prime times. We’ve gotten great feedback from the business and civic associations, that the outreach workers are ambassadors, that it gives them another resource.”
The new outreach strategy has a component aimed not at the homeless but at commuters and residents and that, too, will be beefed up for the Convention.
“They’ll be distributing palm cards that let visitors understand that homelessness in Philadelphia is part of a national phenomenon, that we’re making progress and if they’d like to help, they can contribute to the mayor’s fund to end homelessness,” she says.
She says the additional outreach and services will begin this month and last into August.
Philadelphia Boosts Aid For Homeless During Democratic Convention
July 29, 2016
Part of Philadelphia’s budget for the Democratic National Convention was set aside to help tackle homelessness. The money temporarily paid for more outreach workers and shelter beds.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Philadelphia, host of the Democratic National Convention, spent part of its budget for that event on getting homeless people off the streets. The money paid for more outreach workers and shelter beds, at least temporarily. From member station WHYY in Philadelphia, Aaron Moselle reports.
AARON MOSELLE, BYLINE: Focusing on the week before and the week of the convention, Philadelphia spent more than $60,000 on 110 beds in addition to the several thousand that already exist. Another $25,000 supported 17 additional outreach workers during the same span. For Joseph DeCosmo, those line items were priceless. Last week, he was living on the streets for the first time since losing his job at a pizza place. Now he’s in a shelter after spotting outreach workers one night.
JOSEPH DECOSMO: I was like, let me grab one of them right away. It was like an angel in disguise (laughter).
MOSELLE: Liz Hersh runs the city’s Office of Homeless Services.
LIZ HERSH: In the first 10 days, they made over a thousand contacts with people on the street and were able to get about 15 percent of those into some kind of placement.
MOSELLE: Sister Mary Scullion runs Project HOME. She’s grateful the city provided additional resources. But now what?
MARY SCULLION: I know Project HOME, you know, hopefully will be able to find a way for people to take those next steps forward, but I don’t know that every other organization will have all the tools and resources they need.
MOSELLE: In 2015, the city counted more than 6,000 homeless people. Roughly 700 of them sleep on the streets each night. For NPR News, I’m Aaron Moselle in Philadelphia.
Extra Funding for DNC Helps Philadelphia’s Homeless
July 28, 2016
By Morgan Zalot | NBC10
Liz Hersh, director of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services, talks about the ways extra funding added for more respite beds for people who are homeless is having lasting and life-changing effects on their lives.
The Surprising Way Philly Treats Homeless People During The DNC
July 26, 2016
Eleanor Goldberg, Impact Editor
When the conventions come to town every four years, making life a little more stressful for homeless people has become almost as much of a tradition as draping the city in red, white and blue.
Instead of trying to mask and ignore the problem, as other cities have done in the past, Philadelphia is working to help homeless people actually find places to stay as the city’s accommodations are stretched this week during the Democratic National Convention.
The city allocated $61,000 of its DNC budget to provide an additional 110 beds in shelters, according to Philadelphia Magazine. And, $25,000 will go towards supporting about 20 extra outreach workers.
The city has also partnered with advocates who are well-versed in the issues to help transition homeless people into available shelters, according to ThinkProgress.
This approach stands in stark contrast to past conventions.
In 2012, for example, during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, homeless people were banned entirely from a downtown park where they usually slept and the event site, The Huffington Post reported at the time.
“We had to get our stuff, and then we had to go a mile away or whatever from the facility, the area that was having the convention,” Johnson, 30, told The Huffington Post. “I really didn’t approve of it. We didn’t have nowhere else to go.”
When motel prices skyrocketed in Tampa, and in Charlotte during that year’s DNC, the homeless people who typically relied on such affordable accommodations were also left with nowhere to turn.
Charlotte’s motel prices soared 109 percent during that week, according to the LA Times.
“I work all day for $60,” Eric Jones, who had recently become homeless, told the news outlet. “Why am I going to pay $60 for a room, then I won’t have enough to spend on food or anything.”
Instead of following the lead of other cities, the City of Brotherly Love is taking a cue from its own past major events.
When the Pope visited Philadelphia last year, the city also expanded its outreach teams and often had them work with staff from the Department of Behavioral Health or formerly homeless peer specialists.
“Our hope is this would be a first step,” Laura Weinbaum of Project HOME, a group that works with homeless people, told ThinkProgress. “Even if the reason resources became available is because of the DNC, obviously we want to make hay when the sun shines.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the 2012 Republican National Convention took place in Charlotte. The Democratic National Convention took place there that year.
Under DNC glare, agency puts focus on the homeless
July 26, 2016
With thousands of visitors in the city for the Democratic National Convention, Project HOME does not want anyone to forget about the homeless or those who are living in poverty.
“People are experiencing homelessness in every city or rural community,” said Sister Mary Scullion, the co-founder and executive director of Project HOME. “Across our nation it’s very, very important that our elected officials see, understand and feel the pain and suffering of those who are struggling for survival every day.”
Project HOME (Housing Opportunities Medical Education) will offer personal accounts and hold discussions on that and other topics at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Parkway Branch of the Free Library, 1901 Vine St.
The organization, which strives to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty, chose to have the event during the DNC to put a human face to poverty and homelessness. To the effort, attendees will hear stories from the homeless and from those who have fallen into economic disparity.
“We think it’s important to provide an opportunity for our elected officials and leaders to meet and to hear the stories, the struggles, the hopes and the dreams of people who are experiencing homelessness or who are very low income,” Scullion said. “Too often we’re segregated in society by income.”
In Philadelphia, at any given time, there are an estimated 650 people living on the streets, with approximately half of them taking up residence in Center City, according to Project HOME. For shelter, some of them sleep underneath the underpass of the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Arch Street. Furthermore, the city has a 26.3 poverty rate, from facts provided by a PEW 2015 report titled “State of the City.”
In May, Mayor Jim Kenney announced a new homeless outreach strategy targeting Center City. Earlier this month, his administration lifted a 3-year-old ban on feeding the homeless in city parks, though a federal injunction had the rule in limbo during most of former Mayor Michael Nutter’s second term.
The Office of Supportive Housing is on the ground at four hot spots or high volume areas for the homeless, providing outreach daily from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The outreach team consist of social workers, mental health counselors, addiction specialists and those who were previously homeless.
The teams assess individuals and families to provide them with immediate options to transition into emergency housing, in addition to connecting them to appropriate social services.
“Mayor Kenney has worked with our outreach team to intensify the outreach efforts that we are already doing,” O’Brien said. “[Kenney] has stated that they are in no way trying to disguise the folks who are homeless. We want to provide an understanding that it could happen to anyone and for a variety of reasons.”
Liz Hersh, the director of the OSH, says during the DNC the priority of her agency is to make sure the homeless are housed, not hidden.
“I want to reassert the mayor’s position that homelessness will not be criminalized and that Philadelphia is a city for all,” Hersh said in an emailed statement to the Tribune on Friday. “We are not ‘sweeping the streets’ to hide homeless people. Our goal is to use the opportunity presented by the DNC to help more people get the services and housing they need to address their homelessness.”
Homelessness and poverty could stem from several things including lack of jobs, a scarcity of affordable transportation or housing, lack of affordable health care, domestic violence or inadequate support for mental health and for those who suffer from substance abuse challenges, Project HOME said.
“We really do hope that some of the delegates will take time from their social events and parties to really come and make some human contact and hear stories from people who are not really all that different from they are,” O’Brien said. “They are fellow Americans who are in need of some support right now.”
Homelessness should be part of the conversation for the next presidential administration, O’Brien said.
“For us, when we talk about homelessness and poverty we’re talking about millions,” O’Brien said. “It’s destructive if that many people are left our of the question and talking about the kind of the vision of the country we want to be.”
Added Scullion, “It’s important to raise the issues of poverty and homelessness while both the Republicans and Democrats are establishing their platforms and their issues. Poverty and homelessness are often left off the agenda. Hopefully people will be moved to action of the plight of those who are struggling in our society.”
The homeless outreach hotline is (215) 232-1984.
Most Cities Evict Their Homeless Before Big Events. Philly Is Trying Something New.
July 25, 2016
This week, tens of thousands of people will converge on Philadelphia to attend the Democratic National Convention. They’ll swarm a city that is home to roughly 670 people currently living without shelter.
In other cities, the potential clash between swelling crowds on the streets and people who may call those streets home has been handled by simply pushing the homeless aside. When San Francisco hosted the Super Bowl in February, it relocated homeless people from particular areas, with some homeless people reporting that their belongings were confiscated, and while it said it would give them slots at a shelter, the shelter already had a huge waiting list. When the Pope came to visit New York City, the city swept nearby homeless encampments and threatened to ticket and arrest anyone who didn’t leave.
Before hosting the Republican National Convention last week, Cleveland, Ohio enacted new restrictions that effectively criminalized being homeless near the convention center. The ACLU successfully challenged the rules on behalf of a homeless advocacy group.
Philadelphia, however, is taking a very different approach.
Rather than rely on crackdowns and arrests, the city has spent recent weeks ramping up outreach efforts and offering resources to open up 110 new beds for any homeless people who want to come inside during the chaos of the convention.
The city is partnering with advocates who already work with people on the street. “We’ve been working really closely with the city…to make sure that people are treated humanely and safely,” said Laura Weinbaum of Project HOME, an organization that coordinates outreach to Philadelphia’s homeless.
This more compassionate approach worked well the last time Philadelphia used it, when the Pope visited it on his trip through the United States. The city implemented the same plan for that visit as the one it will use for the DNC. Outreach teams were expanded and often paired with staff from the Department of Behavioral Health or certified formerly homeless peer specialists.
“It was pretty effective,” Weinbaum said. “The time the Pope was here was a pretty major event and pretty stressful and disruptive time for people, but as far as we know there were no involuntary commitments” to shelters.
That experience may set the city up for success this time as well, even if the DNC brings more challenges because it’s unclear which areas will be off limits or overly crowded. “I think we have a fairly good system in place,” she said. “The practice made this a little bit easier.”
And while the extra resources the city is offering are temporary and spurred by a special event, Weinbaum still sees it as a positive step toward helping the homeless community. Many people who go without shelter may find it difficult to make a long-term commitment to coming inside, so being able to do so in a more limited way can ease the transition. “What we have found often with these short-term interventions is they do encourage people to come in in a different way,” she said. “Once people are into the system, if they are interested in the next step and the next step and the next step hopefully that will be made available to them.”
“Our hope is this would be a first step,” she said. “Even if the reason resources became available is because of the DNC, obviously we want to make hay when the sun shines.”
Addressing the Opioid Epidemic – How the Opioid Crisis Affects Homeless Populations
National Health Care for the Homeless Council – Fact Sheet | August 2017
America is facing an opioid epidemic that has reached nationally recognized crisis levels. Currently the Center for Disease Control and Prevention cites that 142 Americans die from opioid overdose every day. Since 2000, deaths due to drug overdose in general have been steadily increasing. Read the Fact Sheet
Hank’s Take: Down and out on Market Street
Fox29 Hank Flynn August 31, 2017
Philadelphia’s homeless numbers are on the rise, thanks to opioid abuse …. Read the story
August 23, 2017
Headhouse district contends with surge in panhandlers, homeless
“Every Sunday from the spring until the fall, Philadelphia’s historic Headhouse Shambles is transformed into a busy farmers market for visitors and residents of the district. But the outdoor colonnade has also become a popular space for homeless people in the city to relax and shelter from the elements.” Read the full Newsworks article.
May 3, 2017
Health and Human Services Report “Together We Thrive” Released
PHILADELPHIA —Deputy Managing Director for Health and Human Services, Eva Gladstein released the Cabinet’s plan, Together We Thrive. Mayor Jim Kenney created the Health and Human Services Cabinet in 2016, bringing together five agencies responsible for serving the most vulnerable individuals in Philadelphia. The agencies include the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO). the Department of Public Health, the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Office of Homeless Services (OHS).
“This plan was created to articulate our shared goals across the Cabinet, connect current and potential community partners with our strategies, provide the tools needed to effectively contribute, share information and understand what works and what doesn’t” said Gladstein.
HHS Cabinet’s mission is to foster the health and well-being of Philadelphians from a healthy start to a safe and supported future. Together We Thrive looks at the state of the city regarding poverty, housing, addiction and behavioral health and family stability and childhood trauma. It provides background, strategies and action steps to ensure people are healthy, safe and supported.
Over the next three years, we will be focused on three primary goals:
- Providing a healthy environment and high-quality physical and behavioral health care.
- Keeping Philadelphians safe and secure in their homes and communities.
- Ensuring the most vulnerable residents are able to stabilize their lives and that individuals and communities support each other.
The plan also outlines the Cabinet’s strategies for 2017. Sampling of the strategies includes::
- Preventing developmental delays in at-risk children ages 0-5.
- Reducing incidences of lead poisoning and asthma.
- Expanding behavioral health supports for youth.
- Providing supports to prevent evictions and homelessness.
- Expanding housing services for young adults, particularly youth aging out of foster care.
- Reducing domestic violence and human trafficking.
- “To achieve these goals, we look forward to collaborating with City Council and other elected officials, the business community, philanthropy, academic and other anchor institutions, community-based organizations, and city residents said Gladstein.”
The full report can be viewed online at www.Phila.gov/hhs.
April 26, 2015
Article on Sanctuary Cities in the New York Times
April 21, 2017
Philadelphia was the first City to utilize the Rapid Results Institute’s 100 Day model to create a team focused on youth homelessness. The Office of Homeless Services held a 100 Day Street Homeless Challenge in June, 2016, before the 100 Day/A Way Home America cities began their work.
Following a Philadelphia City Council hearing and powerful testimony by young people with lived experience of homelessness and youth service providers and advocates, City Council made a funding commitment of $500,000 to increase housing and services for young adults in spring, 2016. The Office of Homeless Services contributed an additional $200,000.
The Legal Intelligencer posted an article on Recommendations to End Youth Homelessness.
“In the last few years Philadelphia has seen an increase in the numbers of homeless youth. We aren’t alone—this increase is happening in cities nationwide. According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) report, 5,764 children and youth were counted as homeless in Philadelphia during the 2014-2015 school year.”
April 19, 2017
The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania joined forces with Covenant House, an agency dedicated to helping homeless youth, and Loyola University’s Modern Slavery Research Project to conduct a first-of-its-kind study on the prevalence of human trafficking among homeless youth. The Field Center will unveil its complete research findings during a 90-minute presentation at the “One Child, Many Hands” national child-welfare conference June 8 at 1:45 p.m. at Penn Law, 3501 Sansom St.
March 3, 2017
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