The Office of Homeless Services announced this month that the city has been awarded a $35,598,858 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund services and programs designed to support Philadelphia’s homeless populations.
“This award is an example of government at every level working together with our network of nonprofit homeless services providers to advance our commitment to making homelessness in Philadelphia rare, brief, and nonrecurring,” said OHS director Liz Hersh in a press release. “And, we are deeply grateful for the incredible tenacity our providers have shown during the pandemic to keep providing much-needed services to our vulnerable neighbors.”
The funding comes as Philadelphia maintains one of the highest poverty rates amongst large U.S. cities. A recent 2020 Point-in-Time count of city residents experiencing homelessness shows a 2% decrease from last year, from 5,735 to 5,634.
Programs that will receive renewed funding under the $35 million grant include:
- Apple Tree Family Center which provides affordable housing for low-income families or single females.
- Pathways to Housing PA’s Street to Home project, which includes 51 long-term housing units to homeless single men and females struggling with substance abuse.
- My Place Germantown, the city’s only permanent supportive housing for homeless men with special needs.
- Veterans Home Project a resource for army veterans experiencing homelessness. In addition to housing assistance, the program also offers free legal assistance relating to issues such as SSI, medical assistance, food stamps, veteran’s compensation and more.
A 2020 State of Affordable Housing Report in Philadelphia outlines the alarming truth about cost burden households in the city. As defined by HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau, cost burden happens when a household spends 30% or more of its total income on housing costs (rent, mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, and property taxes).
Under these parameters, about 231,000 households – or nearly 529,000 people – were cost burdened in 2018. The PEW report shows that in Philadelphia, the primary obstacle for securing permanent housing comes not from affordability (as Philadelphia has relatively low housing costs when compared to other cities) but a result of low-income levels. Philadelphians simply do not make enough money to afford housing they want.
“When the housing subsidies run out, we get right back into the cycle of homeless because there is no income there to support that housing,” said Kellie Brownlow VP of development and community relations at First Step Staffing.
First Step Staffing is a staffing agency dedicated to serving people transitioning from homelessness into permanent housing. The organizations seeks to match participants with employment opportunities; in some cases less than 48 hours. Since its expansion to Philadelphia in 2018, First Step employs 600 people weekly in positions across Philadelphia and surrounding areas.
“Housing and income are inexplicably linked,” Brownlow said. “Traditionally awards like this will go to housing first programs. But we also emphasize the need for individuals to be able to maintain employment, while they are housed.”
This grant will support the city’s 2,718 existing units of long-term housing and services, and 100 local programs. The full list of programs, providers and shelters receiving funding can be viewed here.