Philadelphia Revisits Homeless Efforts

Philadelphia is not only our friendly neighbor to the west, it has also been a leading example of success at ending homelessness.  This success has recently been criticized as the numbers of homeless has increased. This posting, which is from KnowledgePlex, provides an update as well as links to two recent news stories.

An increase in people sleeping on Philadelphia streets has some people wondering whether the city’s widely emulated approach needs redoing, according to articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. An intensive outreach and service effort launched in the late 1990s earned the City of Brotherly Love a reputation as a national leader in efforts to reduce homelessness. In 1997, the annual average of people sleeping on the streets was 500, with that summer’s count reaching 842. The annual average fell to 203 in 2003 but “has been creeping back up,” the Daily News said. Recent counts have placed the number of street homeless at around 350, with some advocates saying the summer street population may be as high as 500. Still, some homeless advocates say the city’s model still works, having moved more than a quarter of the people who were on the streets last year to shelters or addiction treatment centers. 

Others disagree. One new approach under way seeks to train downtown business improvement district staff “to recognize symptoms that could warrant involuntary commitment under state law,” reported the Inquirer. But many mental-health workers are leery, fearing this action may be pursued too quickly. The director of the city’s Office of Supportive Housing says the city really needs more permanent housing for people now in short-term facilities; however, community opposition has defeated six attempts to site new housing for the homeless. Further, a recent $10 million cut in federal funding for Philadelphia homeless efforts has stalled some new housing plans. Still, the city plans to reapply for federal funding and allocate funds from its current budget to help people with delinquent bills avoid eviction, she said.

Tougher Steps Signal Philadelphia’s Frustration Over Homeless
08/03/2007 | Philadelphia Inquirer (Pennsylvania)
Number on City Streets has Been Growing as Facilities and Funds Lag
07/30/2007 | Philadelphia Daily News (Pennsylvania)