(Photo by Flickr user michael_swan, used under a Creative Commons license)
Homeless outreach in Center City is being revamped to become more proactive and responsive.
Announced by Mayor Jim Kenney earlier this week, “Hotspots in Prime Times” will do exactly what its name suggests: Four teams of two outreach workers will be deployed at morning rush hour, lunch and evening rush hour to four places where homeless individuals are most prevalent.
They’ll also serve as “ambassadors” responding to citizens’ questions and concerns, said Office of Supportive Housing Director Liz Hersh.
It’s a big change from the old homeless outreach program, which deployed outreach teams on-demand. It was a somewhat reactive system that outreach workers weren’t satisfied with. This new effort, Hersh said, was developed largely by the workers themselves using panhandling data and the data they’ve collected themselves, supplemented by input from people living in Center City.
The city does not yet have a functional Homeless Information Management System, which enables homeless data to be shared across departments — even though it's mandated by HUD.
“It’s very much data-informed,” Hersh said. “They were really feeling some frustration themselves and wanted to try a different strategy.”
That data was collected and analyzed by the outreach team themselves. The city does not yet have a functional Homeless Information Management System, which enables homeless data to be shared across departments — even though it’s mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
As of now, outreach data lives with the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), Hersh said. That will change next week, when the system will be up and running under a new provider. Once the kinks are all worked out, OSH will be able to provide a “dashboard and reports” that can inform programming.
The new outreach program, designed to build relationships with individuals experiencing chronic street homelessness, launched earlier this week. But it’s not a quick fix.
From our Partners
“It’s really about how to share the streets and help people who are experiencing homelessness get access to the services, and eventually hopefully housing, that will help them not be homeless anymore,” Hersh said. “We wanted to be responsive to the changing dynamics [of Center City].”
Between development in LOVE Park and Market East, people who have been living on the streets of Center City are being displaced as they watch the city change around them — and concentrating in hot spots around the city like the Convention Center, its concourse and Rittenhouse Square.
The new effort is being funded with $5 million a year by DBHIDS — not from the massive two-part $36 million HUD grant OSH received earlier this year, though the two have somehow been “conflated,” Hersh said.
“It’s not a blank check to the city,” she said. It’s renewal money that the city applies for. This year, Hersh said, the city happened to hit a home run. That $3 million Hersh and OSH asked the city for to begin alleviating growing youth homelessness numbers in Philadelphia would have to come from City Council — and could be deployed quickly.
“The city money that we get, which is smaller, is what enables us to be a little more flexible and respond to changing needs,” Hersh said.-30-
From our Partners
Pew’s data dashboard offers a real-time glimpse of Philly’s economy
Who makes $200K?
Food insecurity number is unchanged from 2019 — likely thanks to increased gov help and charitable efforts
Village of the Arts seeks to deepen and scale its impact as it reflects on its legacy
Culture Builder: Local governments should attract people, not companies
Kensington residents ask: ‘Why would you think this is acceptable for us?’
Come January, David Thornburgh won’t be CEO of Committee of Seventy. But he’ll still be working for better government
On June 17, First Person Arts and EMOC launch a virtual event they hope will shatter misperceptions of men of color
The Foundation for Delaware County
Vice President for Advancement and Philanthropic ServicesApply Now
Sign-up for daily news updates from Generocity