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Street Homelessness Down

Here's the press release:


Recent Project H.O.M.E. street count shows 26% drop in street homeless

Philadelphia, December 8 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced today that recent data show a significant decrease in the number of people living on the street in Philadelphia, as the U.S. Conference of Mayors releases its 2009 Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness.

"I am proud to announce that we have made substantial progress in tackling homelessness in Philadelphia, though obviously the work goes on," said Mayor Nutter. "With the steadfast support and partnership of Carl Greene and the Philadelphia Housing Authority and champions such as Sister Mary Scullion, hundreds of formerly homeless people in this city are now living in safe, permanent housing. That is something we can all be proud of."

According to figures released by Project H.O.M.E. from their annual count of homeless individuals living on the streets in Philadelphia The street count was conducted November 18, 2009. The previous year's street count was conducted November 19, 2008.:

26% fewer individuals living on the street citywide – 395 in November 2009 compared to 532 in November 2008
13% fewer individuals living on the street in Center City – 329 in November 2009 compared to 377 in November 2008

"Mayor Nutter's commitment to developing additional permanent housing has resulted in reducing the number of people living on the street," said Sister Mary Scullion. "We applaud this decrease especially in a time where the economy is producing more people and families experiencing homelessness. We hope that the State and Federal Government will increase their commitment to ending homelessness in Philadelphia and beyond. Housing is the single most important thing to ending homelessness today."

This unprecedented progress in a time of recession is due to a remarkable partnership with Carl Greene, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, through which 400 housing opportunities for individuals (as well as an additional 600 opportunities for families) have been committed to date; and the City's strategic expansion of targeted programs for persons with addiction problems and mental illness living on the streets.

Also today the U.S. Conference of Mayors released its 2009 Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness. In the report it is noted that the City of Philadelphia reported the second highest increase in the number of individuals who entered permanent supportive housing over the past year (643 individuals). These are individuals who have moved out of shelters and successfully exited treatment programs into permanent housing. This transition is made possible by the new partnership with the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

"Reducing the scourge of homelessness was the very first initiative the mayor talked with me about after taking office," said Philadelphia Housing Authority Executive Director Carl Greene. "We have worked together to systematically attack the problem with a coordinated effort. The individuals and families who have moved from temporary housing to permanent homes at PHA are there because of the mayor's commitment as well as tremendous federal support."

City of Philadelphia's Homelessness Strategy

In May 2008, Mayor Nutter announced a comprehensive plan to address the problem of homelessness in Philadelphia. In community budget meetings last January, this Administration heard that preserving the homeless system was a public priority and it has done so. Over the past eighteen months, despite the budgetary problems resulting from the national economic downturn, the Nutter Administration has remained committed to addressing homelessness. This strategy rests on providing a full range of options to move individuals off the streets and into stable living situations.

The plan included development of 200 new opportunities for people living on the streets with addictions or mental illness (or both) to come off the streets. This includes a Housing First program as well as specialized residences.

The City augmented its housing first program inventory by expanding the models designed for individuals who are severely mentally ill who are also chronically homeless. The City contracted with Pathways to Housing, Inc. to provide housing and services to 125 chronically homeless men and women living on the streets. Pathways to Housing developed and uses a nationally recognized model that provides immediate housing opportunities with supports for a successful transition. This model brings the most severely impaired chronically homeless individuals on the street into housing and wraps services around them. To date, 102 individuals have moved from homelessness into their own apartments.

In addition, the City created 75 entry-level housing and treatment opportunities for individuals with behavioral heath challenges who are living on the street. These resources include safe haven beds - low demand residences where individuals with mental illness can find safety and get connected to long-term services and housing. Additional chronic homeless treatment programs were brought online in 2008 as well. Longer than traditional detox/treatment programs, individuals can stay for up to 18 months with the opportunity to obtain a Housing Choice Voucher upon completion of their treatment. These programs demonstrate the City's commitment to offer the range of services needed to those who are homeless and struggling with behavioral health problems.

The Mayor's plan also included a new partnership between the City and Philadelphia Housing Authority – and a commitment from PHA to provide affordable housing to 400 individuals experiencing homelessness. This has meant a dramatic and important increase in the amount of permanent supportive housing available in the City.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) has provided 400 Housing Choice Vouchers for individuals ready to progress from the City's behavioral health and homeless services residential and treatment programs on their way back to recovery. The City and its community-based partners committed to providing case management services to these individuals in their new living situations so that they could remain successfully housed.

Through this partnership, the City has found homes for 253 men and women, some of whom have spent years cycling in and out of the homeless and behavioral health systems. By the end of the first year of the Mayor's plan, we had increased the City's stock of permanent housing opportunities by 51% for families, and by 26% for individuals.

First established in 2006, overnight cafes showed early promise as an alternative to streets for homeless individuals, especially in the winter and especially those who are severely mentally ill, for whom emergency shelter is intimidating, through which a person could be engaged in treatment or long-term housing. The Mayor's plan continued the commitment to the cafes.

Working with the Philadelphia Airport, Philadelphia Police Department, the Mental Health Association, and SELF, Inc., the City mounted an outreach strategy to engage individuals sleeping in the airport and transport them to shelter and other housing programs. After this successful work, the City expanded efforts to 30th Street Station to assure that those who were homeless were engaged in moving forward to safe and therapeutic settings.

The City has enhanced engagement activities to the hardest to reach individuals to encourage them to take advantage of the new opportunities and stabilize their lives and this Administration continues to develop a diverse array of behavioral health programs and permanent supportive housing.

The City will continue its strong work with its partners, including the many community organizations serving those who are homeless, advocates, and the Housing Authority, to build on this success.