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November 29, 2016

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Youth Homelessness Service Providers Unveil Programming Expansion

$700,000 in new funding from Council allows Office of Homeless Services to significantly expand supports for youth experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA—Today, members of City Council came together with Liz Hersh, Director of the Office of Homeless Services, and youth homelessness service providers to announce the rollout of expanded initiatives to support youth experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia.
Each year, hundreds of youth in Philadelphia experience homelessness, and up to 6,000 experience housing instability. Many of these youth have been involved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, and a disproportionate number are LGBTQ-identified. The City’s system of 439 beds dedicated to 18-24 year olds is inadequate for addressing the complex needs of these youth.

City Council held hearings earlier this year on youth homelessness and partnered with the Administration to provide an additional $700,000 to address the crisis. Through a competitive process, the Office of Homeless Services selected a unique and powerful Coalition to End Youth Homelessness as the collaborative applicant.

“This effort, which has been a long time coming, proves that Philadelphia doesn’t need to wait for change from above—we can and are making change in the lives of our children and youth right here, right now,” said Councilwoman Helen Gym (At Large), Chair of the Committee on Children and Youth, who spearheaded the expansion of youth homeless services alongside Councilmembers Domb and Blackwell.

“Philadelphia has the highest rate of millennials of any major city, and we must keep them here by providing opportunities, jobs, resources, services and most importantly a roof over their heads,” said Councilman Allan Domb (At Large), Chair of the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless. “Awarding these much needed funds puts our City on the right track towards achieving that goal.”

“For years we have been fighting to ensure that all Philadelphians have secure housing. I’m proud of this new effort to support our youth who have been left behind,” said Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (3rd District), Chair of the Committee on Education.

The coalition was formed in 2016 and consists of five agencies: The Attic Youth Center, a haven for LGTBQ youth, Covenant House PA, Pathways PA, Valley Youth House, and Youth Service, Inc. The agencies will partner to expand the capacity of the homeless youth system by providing:

  • 25 new crisis beds, adding capacity of serve 150 youth;
  • 25 rapid re-housing beds with a minimum of 6 months rental assistance.
  • 2 slots of 24-hour crisis day care for participants;
  • 75 homeless youth will participate in job training and employment support.
Donald Jackson

In addition, 40 LGTBQ youth will receive specialized counseling and mentoring services.

“These new funds will enable the Youth Homelessness Collaborative to expand the youth homeless system by 12%. That’s a great down-payment on addressing this problem. We have the opportunity to change the future history of young people through employment and training, education and social services all anchored by a safe place to live,” said Liz Hersh, Director of the Office of Homeless Services.

Noting the importance of engaging youth in expanding these services, Donald Jackson, Care Outreach Specialist at Action Wellness who has himself endured homelessness, said, “Youth need to be involved in every process in order to help homeless youth in the city. It’s so important for us to be a part of this.”

“The Coalition to End Youth Homelessness will provide a continuum of services for young people in Philadelphia,” said Thomas R. Harrington, President and CEO of Valley Youth House, one of the coalition members. “We’re excited to embark on this new journey together.”

The Office of Homeless services projects the following outcomes as a result of the coalition’s work:

  • 75 youth will live in stable housing;
  • 75 youth will establish permanent connections;
  • 75 youth will be employed;
  • 40 youth will be enrolled in an educational program;
  • 50 youth will access medical services;
  • 175 unduplicated youth will actively participate in housing and/or supportive services.

November 23, 2016

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.