Strategies to reduce the number of homeless living on downtown streets, while providing compassionate outreach, links to appropriate services and job opportunities.
To address panhandling and homelessness on Center City sidewalks, the CCD funds and deploys innovative outreach efforts, the Ambassadors of Hope, a unique partnership with Project HOME and the Philadelphia Police with strong support from the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health. The CCD launched the effort in 2018, based on the assumption that complex social problems require an interdisciplinary approach.
Two teams each consisting of Project Home outreach workers, a crisis-intervention trained Philadelphia Police Officer from the Central Service Detail, a Community Service Representative (CSR) Homeless Outreach Team member from CCD, along with a CSR manager with a vehicle available to both teams, cover the Center City District’s entire footprint, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. One team patrols west of Broad Street and the other patrols east of Broad, with daily emphasis on engaging with well-known, chronically homeless individuals at recurrent gathering locations. The social service and outreach workers initiate each discussion.
Through consistent interaction with the Ambassadors of Hope teams, numerous unsheltered clients accept services and are transported to service providers geared toward their individual needs. About 30% of those accepting services have been chronically homeless individuals who resisted help and placement in the past. Those who do not accept services, but continue to engage in problematic behavior, are instructed by the police officers on the team to cease the behavior and all have complied with no citations or code violation notices issued to date.
The 2020 Ambassadors of Hope program began on Monday, June 22 (after an eight-week delay due to the pandemic) and concluded on Friday, December 11.
During those 25 weeks, outreach teams engaged with an average of 71 unsheltered individuals daily. A total of 99 accepted services and were physically transported from the street to a site appropriate for their needs. Two individuals received placement/treatment through the 302-mental health commitment process, for a total of 101 individuals receiving placements. The CCD provided transportation for 88 of the 101, or 87% of the individuals connected to services. The teams also contacted EMS for emergency service and transportation to area hospitals for 15 individuals in need of immediate medical treatment.
In 2019, the program ran from April 22 to December 13. Over 35 weeks, 185 individuals accepted services and six received placement/treatment through the 302-commitment process for a total of 191 individuals receiving placements. The teams also contacted EMS on 11 occasions for emergency service and transportation to area hospitals. CCD provided transportation for 149 of the 191 (78%) individuals connected to services.
The full Ambassadors of Hope program will resume in April 2021. During the cold weather months, the CCD-funded and -managed Winter Outreach effort continues on a scaled-down basis with two teams consisting of a Project Home outreach worker and a CCD CSR, and a CSR manager with a vehicle at the ready to provide transportation for individuals who accept services. The teams work Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The current Winter Outreach program started on December 11, 2020 and will continue until April 2, 2021. Last winter, during a comparable period, the teams were able to help 51 unsheltered individuals come off Center City sidewalks, parks and concourses to housing, services and/or treatment.
Protocols in accordance with CDC and Health Department guidelines have been implemented to ensure the health and safety of the team members, and the individuals with whom they engage, to protect against the possible spread of the coronavirus. These measures include the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE), frequent use of sanitizers, installation of a barrier shield in the transporting vehicle, on-street temperature scans and symptom surveys of those accepting services and preparation of all necessary forms on the street rather than at an indoor intake center. Team members also have the ability to provide safe, supervised quarantine sites for those requesting services, when symptomatic or if they have been exposed to Covid-positive individuals.
Businesses, residents and members of the public may provide information regarding ongoing locations or individuals that our outreach teams should engage by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
To expand the impact of the Combined Outreach Program, Project HOME and the Center City District unveiled a new information campaign on December 18, 2018, highlighting five Philadelphians previously living on the streets who chose a path out of homelessness and now seek to inspire others to do the same.
Fifty digital ads and 20 printed posters, pictured below, are appearing in transit shelters throughout Center City and feature photo portraits and success stories of five formerly homeless people – Alfonso, David, Katie, LaToya, and Nasir – speaking to others still living on the street: “Your Story Doesn’t End Here. I Know Because Mine Didn’t.” The posters also provide information about several Center City locations where those in need can get meals, services and access to housing.
“Today more than ever we need to continue the fight to end and prevent street homelessness in Philadelphia. Countless women and men have taken that first step that has led them home. We are redoubling our efforts to engage those who are living on the streets in Philly to end street homelessness,” Project HOME Executive Director Sister Mary Scullion said.
Additionally, counter postcards are available for display by retailers, restaurants, hotels, residential buildings and offices in Center City. These counter cards feature the same five individuals telling members of the public how they can best help and offer information cards that can be handed to people living on the street. The cards communicate where food, services and shelter can be found and provide information about how the public can direct their charitable donations to organizations that are making real change, helping individuals find a way home. You can download those information cards to the right for distribution to those in need on the street or to order counter cards, contact Joann Loviglio at email@example.com.