To address the recent, significant increase in panhandling and homelessness on Center City sidewalks, in April 2018 the CCD funded and launched a six-month, sustained, focused and cooperative outreach program: Ambassadors of Hope. This program was created in partnership with Project HOME and the Philadelphia Police with strong support from the City’s Department of Behavioral Health. By pairing outreach workers and police, the program helped 134 homeless individuals come off the street and secure appropriate services, while ensuring that everyone complies with local ordinances regarding use of public spaces. Initiated as a pilot program, the effort concluded in mid-November 2018.
Based on last year’s success, teams from CCD, Project HOME and police resumed daily outreach efforts throughout Center City in April 2019, building relationships with people living on the streets and urging them to come off the streets and accept services. With the number of social service workers from Project HOME doubled in 2019, and with one police officer assigned to each team, as opposed to two in 2018, two teams are able to cover the entire footprint of the Center City District five days a week. Currently, one team covers west of Broad Street and the other covers east of Broad from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
So far this year, outreach teams have persuaded almost 200 individuals to come off the street and accept help. There have been no arrests or citations issued since the outreach program began in April 2018 but those who remain are asked to comply with the provisions of Philadelphia’s sidewalk behavior ordinance.
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Background: 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) worked 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, were fully coordinated and focused within CCD boundaries, with daily emphasis on recurring problem areas and individuals in need of help. Teams engaged an average of 40 homeless individuals and panhandlers each day.
Project HOME outreach staff made the first engagement, offering help and services, while CSRs informed homeless individuals and panhandlers throughout the District that outreach teams could offer transport to facilities for those who accepted help. If individuals refused help, outreach teams returned the next day to try again, while the police service detail, following engagement by Project HOME staff, informed 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, outreach teams made significant progress, encouraging more homeless individuals to accept services. Through daily contact and relationship building, Ambassadors of Hope prompted scores of chronically homeless individuals to accept assistance and transport to facilities geared toward their needs. During the 30 week program, 134 people chose to come off the street and enter social service, mental health and housing programs. The CCD provided transportation for 55% of those people, easing the connection to service for many of those who had been reluctant to accept help. Those individuals who did not accept service, but were observed in violation of the Sidewalk Behavior Ordinance, were instructed by the police officers on the team to cease the behavior and all complied, with an average of 14 individuals per day moving away from locations where their behavior was problematic. There were no arrests or citations issued during the entire outreach effort.
More than a dozen major office buildings and hotels made significant contributions to support the effort in 2018. Your support can help us provide more outreach teams.
Donate now to contribute to Ambassadors of Hope.
To expand the impact of Ambassdors of Hope, 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.
To expand this communications initiative, make a tax deductible contribution to the Center City District Foundation.