Mayor Jim Kenney Launches Effort to Make Philadelphia’s Shared Public Spaces More Enjoyable for All

PHILADELPHIA – The Office of Homeless Services today announced a new effort by Mayor Jim Kenney to crack down on panhandling, address chronic street homelessness and streamline outdoor meal services at the vast amount of shared public spaces throughout the city including transit stations, plazas and streets.

A public-private workgroup comprised of more than a dozen leaders from the business, hospitality and civic communities will partner with leaders in the Mayor’s administration to strategize and take action to ensure that public spaces in Philadelphia can be utilized safely and enjoyed by all.

“We all share our public spaces, which help make the city fun, lively and exciting but they can also become crowded, dirty, intimidating and unpleasant at times,” Mayor Kenney said. “This is an effort to bring our stakeholders outside of government to the table and take action as a formalized public-private collective to ensure that we can all enjoy our public spaces safely, comfortably and with dignity and respect.”

Deputy Managing Director Brian Abernathy and Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Julie Coker Graham will co-chair the workgroup, which consists of four subcommittees each assigned to one of the following areas of action:


  • Establishing clear standards for behavior in shared public spaces together with the tools and engagement to support them as a code of conduct;
  • Strategizing and implementing real solutions to chronic street homelessness;
  • Improving access to indoor meals and ensuring dignity and safety to meals when served outdoors; and
  • Developing and implementing messaging, public information and communications around shared public spaces for businesses, residents and visitors alike.

Homeless Services Director Liz Hersh, who organized the workgroup on behalf of the Mayor, said the group will begin its duties in early December and intends to develop round-one action plans for all four focus areas by March 2017. “Given the growth and development in the city, our shared public spaces are being utilized much more fully and frequently,” Hersh said. “While this is certainly a good thing, we recognize that the greater volume of traffic necessitates revisiting rules of the road in the form of a code of conduct and robust service alternatives to ensure safety and dignity for us all.”

Nongovernment organizations participating in the workgroup include: Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Center City District, WAWA, Parkway Council, AthenianRazak LLC, the Parkway Foundation, Broad Street Ministry, Food Access Collaborative, Temple University, Avenue of the Arts, Project HOME, Bethesda Project, Building Owners and Managers Association, Chronic Homelessness Partnership and managers of the Metro Market.

Participating city government agencies include: Office of Homeless Services, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Philadelphia Police Department, Parks and Recreation, Department of Commerce, Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, and members of Philadelphia City Council.