City to Increase Beds, Outreach for Homeless During DNC

More money will help the Office of Supportive Housing increase its services temporarily.

Tourists walk past a homeless person during Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia. Photo | Bradley Maule

Tourists walk past a homeless person during Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia. Photo | Bradley Maule

Philadelphia will have more beds and resources to help shelter its homeless population for the next few weeks.

In the city’s budget for the upcoming Democratic National Convention, there is about $61,000 allotted to allow the Office of Supportive Housing to provide for 110 more beds throughout the city. An additional $25,000 will fund 16 to 20 more outreach workers than usual during the convention. The extra resources will be available from July 17th through the 31st.

These workers will help people experiencing homelessness find resources and alert them to the new regulations and crowds that are expected to accompany the DNC. They will also be on hand to talk to visitors about homelessness and what can be done to end it.

They’ll also be around if someone is in distress and needs assistance, according to Liz Hersh, director of the Office of Supportive Housing (OSH).

The beds will be at institutions within the OSH’s currently existing network, said Hersh, which includes approximately 63 partners who are already vetted, staffed, and ready to function.

“It is definitely our hope that by the opportunities that these beds present, we’ll be giving people that first step on a path towards recovery, towards housing stability or towards getting the physical or behavioral health care that they need as well as some placements in some longer term housing,” said Laura Weinbaum, vice president for public affairs and strategic initiatives at Project HOME, to Newsworks.

The new resources are not about hiding the city’s homeless population from the 50,000 expected visitors during the Convention, said Hersh. She said that the event will increase the police presence in the city, and that any time the city has a big event they try to increase their outreach to people experiencing homelessness.

“It will be a very intense, very crowded situation so we want to offer respite to people on the streets to get them out of the streets,” said Hersh.

She added that “deep poverty and lack of opportunity are problems that we need to have eyes wide open to solve,” and that Philly’s policy is summed up as “housed not hidden.”

Philly is estimated to have around 15,000 people experiencing homelessness, with around 700 of them unsheltered.

This increase in resources comes after a plan to focus outreach on “hot spots” was announced by the Kenney administration.

The DNC will be held from July 25th through the 28th.