Homeless Outreach

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. The teams patrol on foot and 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.

Over the past three seasons, through consistent interaction with the AoH teams, over 300 unsheltered clients accepted services and were transported to service or treatment providers geared toward their individual needs, shelter or housing with CCD providing the transportation in about 75% of the cases.   About 30% of those accepting services were chronically homeless individuals who resisted help and placement in the past. Those who did not accept services, but continued to engage in problematic behavior, were instructed by the police officers on the team to cease the behavior and all complied with no citations or code violation notices issued to date.

The AoH teams also secured emergency services (EMS) for over 25 individuals that they encountered who were in need of immediate medical treatment.

For the past two years, during the winter months, the CCD and Project Home provided outreach services in the same manner as AoH, except that a trained police officer was not assigned to each team, but was readily available through direct contact if needed. The 2021 Winter Outreach program started on December 28, 2020 and continued until April 2, 2021. In two years, the teams have helped over 75 unsheltered individuals come off Center City sidewalks, parks and concourses and were taken to housing, services and/or treatment providers. 

Protocols in accordance with CDC and Health Department guidelines have been firmly established 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.

Learn more about how you can support Ambassadors of Hope.

Businesses, residents and members of the public may provide information regarding ongoing locations or individuals that our outreach teams should engage by emailing outreach@centercityphila.org.

Learn more about how you can support Ambassadors of Hope