PHILADELPHIA — Mayor Jim Kenney announced today that he has accepted the resignation of Elizabeth Hersh, the Executive Director of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services (OHS). Appointed by Mayor Jim Kenney in 2016, Hersh led the City of Philadelphia’s homeless services efforts for nearly eight years.
“Liz Hersh has been a tremendous advocate and leader in the fight to end homelessness in Philadelphia,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Her tenacity and her compassion have driven life-changing transformations to Philadelphia’s services and housing networks. Liz steered the Office of Homeless Services admirably through the simultaneous challenges of a widening wealth gap, a national housing crisis, and a global pandemic. Thanks to her team our city is bucking national homelessness trends, building stellar public-private partnerships, and setting the stage for a future where everyone in Philadelphia has a place they can call home. I want to congratulate and thank Liz for her service, and I am confident that she will continue to effect incredible change in her next endeavors.”
During her tenure, Hersh led the transformation of the City’s approach to homeless services, including an office rebrand, expanded partnerships with the homeless services provider network, and an increased focus on permanent housing while serving nearly 20,000 people a year. Hersh’s priorities also included enhancing outreach efforts, programs, and services to teens and young adults experiencing homelessness.
“Liz brought great energy and passion to Homeless Services,” said Managing Director Tumar Alexander. “While strengthening its emergency housing system, she worked tirelessly to prevent homelessness and to create more permanent housing options for our most vulnerable residents. She was also a great partner to the other Health and Human Service agencies.”
Under Hersh, the OHS housing-first approach generated a 90% success rate in preventing a return to homelessness among people in supportive housing. OHS also delivered a 35% reduction over a 6-year period in the number of unsheltered people, according to the annual Point In Time count. Consequently, Philadelphia’s OHS system is considered a national model studied by cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Detroit and Austin.
One of the hallmarks of Hersh’s leadership has been her spearheading the development of new, innovative models such as Shared Housing, an award-winning pilot partnership with the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) to rehab long-vacant units for a roommate-style approach to affordable housing. She additionally led the creation of “Shared Public Spaces,” an initiative through which civic, hospitality and business leaders raise private money and co-create solutions. This effort prioritizes services over criminalization, and established a fund, PHLCares, that has raised more than $1 million for proactive solutions.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Philadelphia, Hersh led OHS’s urgent coordination with other City departments, agencies, businesses, and nonprofit partners to keep City shelters safely open, and establish additional shelters in local hotels, unlike other cities’ homeless systems. Her collaborative efforts and commitment to serving the most vulnerable resulted in an infection rate of less than 5% rate among Philadelphia’s unhoused community.
“I have been honored to lead this team for seven and a half years and to be a partner in the Administration’s shared commitment to serving Philadelphia’s most vulnerable residents” said Hersh. “In the face of enormous, deeply rooted systemic challenges and unprecedented crises, our team has thrived, provided life giving services to the poorest and most vulnerable Philadelphians, increased housing, unified the provider network, advanced our plan to make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring, and become a national model in the process.”
Hersh will continue her work tackling homelessness as Principal for Policy and Advocacy for the national homelessness prevention nonprofit, Community Solutions. Her last day at OHS is October 13, 2023. Current OHS Chief of Staff David Holloman will step into the role of Interim Executive Director following Hersh’s departure.
“We welcome Dave Holloman to this new role. We are confident in his ability to continue and expand upon the important work of Homeless Services,” said Alexander.
“I know that Dave Holloman and this amazing team will continue to defy the odds with their steadfast dedication and tireless work as I pass the baton,” added Hersh.