Homelessness In Philadelphia: City Services Offered & How You Can Help

The job of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services is to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.

Last year about 15,000 Philadelphians experienced homelessness. Many end up finding shelter, but others need help finding housing, services, and jobs. The City offers more than 12,000 places for people to live — some emergency, other longer term — depending on the need.

Mayor Jim Kenney speaks at a press conference with Homeless Outreach workers in May 2016. (Photo by Samantha Madera.)

There is hope. Philly has one of the lowest rates of street homelessness in the nation. In 2015, Philadelphia functionally ended veteran homelessness. Our supportive housing programs, which are rent subsidies coupled with services, are 88-97 percent successful in preventing a return to homelessness.

Homelessness is primarily caused by poverty and the lack of affordable housing; mental illness and addiction also contribute. The City works through a network of nonprofit service organizations that provide housing and services to those in need. We partner with other local, state, and federal entities to mobilize resources to address housing need.

Homeless Outreach is one of the best tools available to help those who are homeless and living on the street. It is available 24/7 by calling 215-232-1984.

Outreach workers will come out to provide information and transportation to area shelters for people on the street. In 2015 Outreach helped over 2,800 people. When the weather is extremely cold we declare “Code Blue” and make more shelter beds available.

No one has died from exposure in nearly two years, but we need your help. Calling outreach at 215-232-1984 can help people stay alive.

Although we’ve made a lot of progress and success, we know we must do more. Mayor Jim Kenney recently announced a new public-private partnership to address panhandling and better help those experiencing homelessness. The public-private partnership is developing new strategies that will work for everyone.


How You Can Help

  • Call Homeless Outreach at 215-232-1984 if you see someone who needs shelter
  • Call the Mental Health Crisis Line at 215-685-6440 if you see someone on the street that you think is experiencing mental health or addiction problems. Trained clinicians are on call 24/7
  • Volunteer with SERVE Philadelphia, which posts information on how and where to volunteer at meal sites
  • Join the annual count of the City’s homeless population on Thursday, January 26 at 2 AM. You can register here
  • Donate to established organizations that provide services for homeless Philadelphians. You can also donate to the City’s efforts to combat homelessness on the Mayor’s Fund
  • Buy a copy of One Step Away newspaper which features content “produced by those without homes for those with homes.” Vendors keep 75 cents out of every dollar earned

As Mayor Kenney said, “We are a city for all and we are all responsible for each other.” Take a minute to check out the opportunities available to get involved. By using these tools, we can work to end homelessness together.

Are you interested in volunteering at a meal site? Be sure to check out current volunteer opportunities through SERVE Philadelphia! Want to donate? You can make a donation to the City’s homelessness initiatives through the Mayor’s Fund.


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