The Office of Homeless Services joins homelessness advocates, service providers and people with homelessness lived experience in condemning the Grant’s Pass v. Johnson Supreme Court ruling of June 28, 2024, which will allow cities to consider the act of sleeping outside a crime.

We firmly believe that a person who is experiencing homelessness and does not have any place but outdoors to sleep should not be classified as a criminal. They are human beings who do not deserve to be criminally punished with fines simply for existing. Moreover, we believe our fellow Philadelphians experiencing homelessness need and deserve more. This is why OHS and our City partners work together to offer people who’ve gathered in one location on the sidewalk, or a park or other outdoor venue services from emergency and temporary shelter to substance use treatment. For example, we most recently conducted a homelessness encampment resolution that resulted in placing in one day, at least 59 people within a two-block area in shelter, care and/or treatment. Additionally, the growing number of unsheltered people in Philadelphia is clearly indicative of the dire need for more affordable housing, shelter beds, and related services. In 2023, for example, more than 700 Philadelphians were counted sleeping on our streets during last year’s annual unsheltered Point In Time Count (PIT Count). That number swelled to more than 900 during the 2024 PIT Count.

The existence of homelessness and lack of appropriate resources is the problem – not the person who sleeps outside because of it.

Ending homelessness is a complex, multidimensional, and monumental task. This is why OHS will continue its work with City and provider partners to ensure all Philadelphians who need shelter, can access it along with the services they need. Our city deserves better.