To address the significant increase in panhandling and homelessness on Center City sidewalks in the last several years, the CCD funded and launched on April 23 a six-month, sustained, focused and cooperative outreach program in partnership with Project Home and the Philadelphia Police. By pairing outreach workers and police, the goals are to help more homeless individuals come off the street and secure appropriate services, while ensuring that everyone complies with local ordinances regarding use of public spaces. More than a dozen major office buildings and hotels made significant contributions to support the effort.
Following extensive training concerning the needs of homeless individuals, teams consisting of two Project Home outreach workers (in orange vests), two police officers from the service detail and two CCD Community Service Representatives (CSRs) work each weekday in two shifts: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The teams, which traditionally had worked separately, are now fully coordinated and focused within CCD boundaries, with daily emphasis on recurring problem areas and individuals in need of help. Teams have engaged an average of 35 homeless individuals and panhandlers each day.
Project Home outreach staff makes the first engagement, offering help and services, while CSRs inform homeless individuals and panhandlers throughout the District that outreach teams are on the way and offer to provide transport to facilities for those who accept help. If individuals refuse help, outreach teams return the next day to try again, while the police service detail, following engagement by Project Home staff, also informs them of the provisions of Philadelphia’s sidewalk behavior ordinance that places limits on sitting on a public sidewalk or placing obstructing objects on the sidewalk.
Working together, the joint outreach teams have made significant progress in encouraging more homeless individuals to accept services. Through daily contact and relationship building, the joint outreach program has prompted scores of chronically homeless individuals to accept assistance and transport to facilities geared toward their needs. In the program's first 12 weeks, 71 accepted help and came off the street and there were more than 300 compliances with the sidewalk ordinance and no criminal or civil citations.
The members of the joint outreach teams meet weekly with appropriate city agencies for follow up on those who have chosen the path to recovery to help ensure they don’t return to the streets and to discuss strategies for reaching those on the street still unwilling to accept help and needed services. This pilot program continues through November at which time its full impact will be evaluated.
FOR GIVING OPPORTUNITIES
To learn more about how you can support CCDF initiatives, please contact:
Director of Development, Center City District Foundation