Project HOME

Going to Scale: Ending Street Homelessness in Philadelphia and Beyond

Housing for the homeless

By improving, leveraging, and expanding Philadelphia's model for ending chronic street homelessness in Pennsylvania, we will lay the foundation for ending chronic street homelessness nationwide.

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

For decades, homelessness has been an intractable social problem. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, however, have among the lowest per-capita rates of people living on the street, despite Philadelphia’s highest-ranking poverty rate among large U.S. cities.?Building on existing progress, extensive public-private partnerships, and a broad community united by a shared vision, we will solve chronic street homelessness in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Transformational change is possible when economically and socially diverse communities align around a shared strategic vision and action framework. While these cities have different challenges, we believe that the same basic approach will succeed. Our plan entails using real-time integrated data, same-day access to services, treatment, and housing, and a public relations campaign to ignite public will and engage communities. Inspired by the strength of those who have overcome homelessness, we will demonstrate that street homelessness is not inevitable but can be solved – in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the nation.

Problem Statement

People who live on our streets represent the most visible of the homeless population. Each year, street outreach in Philadelphia connects with more than 6,000 individuals; of whom an estimated 1,000 people are chronically street homeless. In Pittsburgh, over 600 people were served by street outreach last year, one third of whom were chronically homeless. This group is the most vulnerable - most struggle with serious mental illness and addiction - as well as the most costly; their complex behavioral health needs demand a disproportionate share of public resources. Research by Dr. Dennis Culhane at the University of Pennsylvania found that 20% of chronically homeless individuals in Philadelphia accrued 60% of public service costs [1]. For these reasons, this group will be the focus of our work. Due to Philadelphia’s history of innovation, strong networks of provider organizations, coordinated street outreach, and historic collaborations, we have made considerable progress. However, we still lack the capacity to adequately serve this group. Today, the greatest number of people living on the street are those who are actively addicted. Service and real-time data systems that lack integration are barriers to ending homelessness, resulting in a revolving door that often leads back to the street. The lack of same-day access to housing, treatment, and services create a backlog and disincentivizes participation. We can create comprehensive and inclusive solutions by integrating systems, housing, and services and engaging a broad community, including neighbors, police, businesses, and people with lived experience to end street homelessness.

Solution Overview

This grant will unlock resources to scale solutions, build stronger cross-system collaborations, and significantly accelerate progress to end chronic street homelessness in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and beyond. Our solution will be rooted in and led by people with lived experience, with consistent feedback loops to ensure this continues. We will engage stakeholders in deeper and bolder ways through our work with Insyte Partners. We will create real-time integrated data across systems (housing, behavioral health, crisis supports, corrections, and others) and expand data/predictive analytics to better understand the needs of individuals and deploy solutions. This will allow us to provide coordinated on-demand services to individuals experiencing street homelessness. We will strengthen existing housing stock through quality enhancements and create new units through rental assistance and housing development. MacArthur funding will allow us to leverage an additional $96 million to produce 570 housing opportunities over 5 years. To ensure our systems have the capacity to address an individual’s needs, we will improve timely access to entry-level housing and upgrade facilities to be safe, decent, and accessible. Our solution focuses on creating additional employment-first opportunities, expanding healthcare- and housing-first programs, and increasing access to recovery, harm reduction, and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). All services will be consumer-driven, trauma-informed, LGBTQ-friendly, and bilingual. We will conduct a powerful public relations campaigns to engage out communities in co-creating compassionate and effective interventions (especially for difficult issues like encampments and NIMBY). This approach will inspire transformational change and build community – the power of we.

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Project Funders

  • Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA)
  • Oak Foundation 2018 - 2023

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