PHILADELPHIA — As hundreds of volunteers fanned out across Philadelphia’s nearly 50 zip codes to tally street homelessness and survey Philadelphians experiencing homelessness for the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, Office of Homeless Services (OHS) Director Liz Hersh announced that new national figures show that Philadelphia has retained its status as having the lowest street homeless population among America’s largest cities.

The OHS data team made the determination using last year’s national PIT Count data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) earlier this month ahead of 2020’s count. This finding adds to a growing list of positive indicators for the city’s homeless services system, including a 25 percent reduction in family homelessness over the past three years and an 86 percent reduction in the city’s street homeless growth rate since 2016.

“The reason we’re able to progress is because of the hard work of our amazing provider community, the dedication of volunteers and workers, the leadership from City Council and the Mayor’s Office, and the collaborative, can-do approach of Philadelphians,” said OHS Director Liz Hersh. “They say we’re gritty, which might be true, but we’re also a caring, compassionate people who truly care and work together. This kind of community mindset helps explain why, in a city still reckoning with a relatively high poverty rate, we simultaneously have the lowest street homeless population. We care about each other.”

Data collected at tonight’s event will be publicly available and submitted to Washington in late April. The count, held overnight, also has a companion youth count during the day on January 23. OHS funded providers Valley Youth House and Project HOME manage the Youth Count and PIT Count, respectively.

At the kickoff event, volunteers also heard from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials, including HUD Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Joe DeFelice, who presented the City with a check for $32 million to fund a slew of programs next year. HUD requires the PIT Count to develop national strategy as well as make important decisions relating to funding.

“To be sure, we recognize that the PIT Count is one snapshot in time using one definition of homelessness. There are those living doubled up not counted tonight, for instance,” Hersh added. “Still, we’re sustaining and building on progress made over the past four years. Since 2016, we’ve reduced family homelessness by 25 percent. That’s over 200 families. Simultaneously, and thanks to data like the kind we’re collecting tonight, we know we’ve reduced the street homeless growth rate by 86% over the past three years. Now, we’re adding more long-term housing for the most vulnerable than ever before in Philly history. There’s so much work to be done, but it’s clear that what we’re doing is working. We just have to keep going and growing. Staying stationary isn’t enough.”

“In Philadelphia, HUD is renewing critically needed funding to nearly 100 existing homeless programs while supporting new projects,” said HUD Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Joe DeFelice. “This year’s funding includes an additional $295,000 which will go a long way in advancing ongoing efforts to reduce homelessness in the city.”

The funding represents a total of 2,587 units of housing for Philadelphia’s most vulnerable, of which 2,506 are renewals.

Some of the new projects funded by HUD include:

  • Women Against Abuse’s Safe at Home project providing homes for domestic violence survivors, which addresses the types of unique housing crises survivors often encounter but that are difficult to resolve.
  • Catholic Social Services’ Visitation Homes project converting an existing program into a permanent supportive housing program to increase the long-term housing stock in Philly’s system.
  • Pathways to Housing PA’s Street to Home 2 project, which reflects 51 units added to the area long-term housing stock to assist single men and women living on the street and struggling with substance use disorder achieve housing stability and improve their health, leveraging Medicaid-funded behavioral health supports.
Existing projects renewed by HUD include programs focusing on youth, the chronically homeless, those with serious disabilities, and veterans.
The full list of programs is available from HUD online.
The tally of homeless populations across the United States and its territories is available online from HUD as well.
An explanation of what the PIT Count is and why it’s important is available online from the Office of Homeless Services.