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, 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.
In October 2021, a mental health outreach worker from Pennsylvania Hospital's Hall-Mercer Community Behavioral Health Center joined the AoH teams, bringing specialized expertise and connections to additional networks providing addiction treatment, shelter and housing for individuals with mental health and cognitive issues and the ability to assess and prepare mental health committal petitions for individuals in crisis.
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. 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.
Businesses, residents and members of the public may provide information regarding ongoing locations or individuals that our outreach teams should engage by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donate now to contribute to Ambassadors of Hope.
To expand the impact of the Combined Outreach Program, 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.