PHILADELPHIA — The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services (OHS) released final numbers today from 2019 Point in Time Count (PIT Count). The PIT Count is an annual measurement required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for nationwide data gathering purposes.
The PIT count took place overnight January 23-24, 2019. Hundreds of volunteers, including many with firsthand past experience with homelessness, joined City officials, and workers and advocates performed the count in every one of Philadelphia’s almost 50 zip codes.
Final tallies indicate that Philadelphia’s street homeless growth rate has gone down sharply each year over the past three years. On the night of the count, 1139 people experienced homelessness on Philadelphia’s streets, a 56-person increase over 2018’s figure of 1083. Of these, volunteers, including youth volunteers with lived experience, counted 70 youth age 24 and under.
“While the Point in Time Count is just one of many ways we measure homelessness, these numbers show that despite unprecedented pressures across the nation — a widening gap between rich and poor, a lack of affordable housing, the opioid crisis, and America’s 30-year homelessness crisis — Philadelphia is ahead of the curve developing compassionate, effective solutions,” explained OHS Director Liz Hersh.
Looking back over the past three years, the PIT Count figures show the rate of growth dropping precipitously.
In 2017, the count showed a 36 percent increase. In 2018, the count showed a 13 percent increase. And in 2019, numbers show a modest 5 percent increase in the overall homeless population, amounting to an 86 percent drop in growth over the last three years.
“We need to slow the train before we can eventually stop it,” Hersh added, “and the momentum right now is in our favor. It’s critical that we continue to do everything we can to keep progress going. The fact that, despite all the work going on, we’re still seeing even small increases in our totals shows the inordinate amount of pressure our partners and our neighborhoods are under.”
The PIT Count is one of many data points OHS uses to measure homelessness. HUD requires specific methodology for the count so that nationwide data collection is uniform. It is a snapshot in time performed in a specific way using HUD’s definition of homelessness.
“We can and do measure homelessness in a variety of ways,” Hersh concluded. “The PIT Count is one tool in our overall measurements toolbox. It, along with other data, helps us develop an even more nuanced, holistic, and comprehensive view of homelessness in Philadelphia.”
The Office of Homeless Services will submit final tallies along with other reports to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in late April.