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City: Homeless street population down

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Philadelphia, August 21, 2012 – The quarterly Point in Time Homeless Count revealed a 2 percent decrease in Philadelphia's street homeless population. The recent count showed 588 persons living on city streets, as opposed to 601 last summer.

"Since 2008, our Administration has been working in a systematic way to reduce homelessness by helping families and individuals move into permanent homes," said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. "We are seeing success due to comprehensive planning and close working relationships with public and non-profit partners. Ending homelessness is the ultimate goal and every decrease in the number of Philadelphians living on the streets is a step in the right direction."

According to the quarterly report, the number of persons living on the street in Center City decreased by 7%, while those in West Philadelphia and the airport increased very slightly. After adding this number to the number of single individuals residing in the City's shelters or sleeping at a homeless cafe, the total count of homeless single individuals declined by 8%. Project Home organizes volunteers for this quarterly count. Volunteers gathered at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, August 8 for training. They counted from midnight to 3 a.m.

"While we still have lots more work to do, there is reason to spotlight the successful efforts being made in our city to address homelessness," said Donald F. Schwarz, MD, MPH, Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity. "In spite of these challenging economic times, we continue to make strides toward ending homelessness."

By contrast, New York City recently released its count of the unsheltered street homeless which showed a 23% increase in numbers between 2011 and 2012. Among the major cities reporting the number of unsheltered homeless individuals, Philadelphia now has the lowest ratio of unsheltered homeless to the general population; lower than New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Miami, Seattle, or San Francisco.

In 2008, Mayor Nutter announced a plan to end homelessness, focused on increasing alternatives for individuals living on the street with behavioral health needs, increasing the City's inventory of permanent housing, and providing services to help clients attain and sustain housing stability.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority's (PHA) ongoing partnership in this plan has been vital to its success. PHA has contributed to the City's ability to provide a range of supportive housing options to homeless and disabled individuals.

The City also is participating in the national 100K Homes process that prioritizes those most vulnerable for proven supportive housing solutions. Further, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services and the Office of Supportive Housing have targeted outreach to those living on Philadelphia's streets the longest. These and other proven evidenced-based strategies seem to be having the desired effect of moving towards ending homelessness in the city.

"We do not expect that the impact of the Commonwealth's cuts to General Assistance (GA) on homelessness has been felt at this time," said Schwarz. "Eviction is a lengthy process, and likely people are receiving help from families and communities, rather than becoming homeless at this point."

Unfortunately, resources are limited, the job market remains a challenge, and the City remains concerned that cuts to GA and other essential services will compromise Mayor Nutter's Homeless Initiative while increasing homelessness in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia was recently recognized at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference in Washington DC for being one of just 15 communities to house 2.5 percent of its chronic homeless population each month.