Facts on Homelessness | Project HOME

Facts on Homelessness


Homelessness in the United States 1

Extracted from the 2018 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress

On a single night in January 2018, there were 552,830 people experiencing homelessness in the United States. 65% were sheltered individuals and 35% were unsheltered individuals.

  • Homelessness increased modestly from 2017 to 2018 for the second year in a row. However, since 2007, homelessness has declined overall by 15%.
  • Homelessness nationally increased by 0.3% between 2017 and 2018, accounted for by a 2% increase in unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness and a decrease in sheltered individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • Despite recent increases in unsheltered homelessness, since 2007 24% fewer people were experiencing homelessness in unsheltered locations
  • Two in three people (67%) experiencing homelessness were adults in households without children. The remaining 33% of people experiencing homelessness did so as part of a family.
  • 20% (or 111,592) of those experiencing homelessness were children under the age of 18.
  • 9% (53,438 individuals) were between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • On a single night in 2018, about 36,000 unaccompanied youth – people under the age of 25 experiencing homelessness on their own - were experiencing homelessness. 89% of these individuals were between the ages of 18 and 24 and 51% of unaccompanied youth were unsheltered.
  • Nearly 89,000 individuals experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2018 had chronic patterns of homelessness.
    • Chronic homelessness among individuals increased by 2% between 2017 and 2018 but is 26% lower since 2007.
    • Two thirds of these individuals were unsheltered – staying outdoors in abandoned buildings, or other locations not suitable for human habitation rather than staying in shelters, reflecting the high degree of vulnerability of this population.*
  • Nearly 38,000 veterans were experiencing homelessness in the US.
    • Since 2010, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has decreased by 49% (36,000).

* Chronically homeless individuals are individuals with disabilities who have either been continuously experiencing homelessness for one year or more or who have experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years where the combined length of time homeless in those occasions is at least 12 months.

Homelessness in Philadelphia 2

  • Each year, Philadelphia homeless outreach organizations engage more than 6,000 individuals living on the street, in cars, abandoned buildings, train/bus stations, and other places not meant for human habitation.3
  • Approximately 8,884 unduplicated people (including families) accessed shelter in Philadelphia last year.4 In addition, numerous individuals were turned away from shelter due to limited capacity.
  • 6,583 Children and Youth in Philadelphia experienced homelessness during the 2016-2017 School Year.
  • The Philadelphia Department of Education (PDE) reports that of 4,468 School District of Philadelphia (SDP) students experiencing homelessness, 58% remained in their school of origin, 19% attended different school, and 5% enrolled in more than two schools.5

*Starting in 2014, unsheltered counts include increased coverage of the Kensington area and other communities that were not previously included, causing street count numbers to increase.


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Causes of Homelessness in Philadelphia

The causes of homelessness are diverse and related to many systemic and institutional structures within our country. We recognize that homelessness has many intersecting causes and that data quality and availability is, for now, still limited. We have decided to highlight a few of the causes of homelessness in Philadelphia with supported data.

1. Lack of jobs at competitive living wages.

  • Philadelphia has a 25.7% poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation. Of that 26%, over half (14%) are living in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of the federal poverty limit. 6
  • On the economic front, the city had an average of 724,400 jobs in 2018, the highest total since 1991. 7
  • In 2016, 61 percent of the city’s working-age poor, those ages 16-64, were not in the workforce, meaning they were neither employed nor looking for work. 8

2. Disparity between housing costs and minimum wage, public supports, or earned benefits.

  • In Philadelphia, a person would have to work 106 hours per week at the minimum hourly wage of $7.25 to afford even a modest one-bedroom apartment. 9
  • Pennsylvania’s Supplemental Security Income payment is only $771 per month10 , while the average fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,003 per month 11 -- not to mention other costs of living. 

3. Lack of affordable housing and inadequate housing assistance.

  • Over half (54%) of Philadelphians pay more than 30% of their income on rent, which reflects low incomes and unaffordable housing, rather than simply high rent costs. 12
  • There are only 41 affordable housing units for every 100 extremely low income households (those making $23,850 or less per year).13  This means 60% of extremely low income households must maintain housing above their means, a recipe for financial instability.
  • Roughly 154,000 Philadelphians – more than one in four – live under 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI) of $38,253.14

4. Lack of affordable health care.

  • In Philadelphia, 9% of residents are without health insurance. 15
  • Philadelphia county was ranked the worst (out of 67 PA counties) for health outcomes and the worst for health factors including health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. 16
  • More than 10% of people who seek substance abuse or mental health treatment in our public health system are experiencing homelessness. 17

5. Inadequate support for mental health and substance use challenges.

  • According to the 2018 Community Behavioral Health (CBH) Annual Report there are over 717,000 eligible participants in the Philadelphia area while only 118,000 used CBH services. 18
  • In January 2016, one in five people experiencing homelessness had a serious mental illness, and a similar percentage had a chronic substance use disorder. 19
  • Research from the Collaborative Initiative to Help End Chronic Homelessness (CICH), a joint effort of HUD and Veterans Affairs, found that at program entry, 72% of participants had a substance use disorder and 76% had a mental illness. 20

6. Racial inequality.

  • According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a disproportionate number of minorities experience homelessness compared to their white counterparts. Minorities are about 1.5 times – and Black Americans 3 times – more likely to experience homelessness than White Americans. 21
  • The rate of unsheltered homelessness among Latinx/Hispanic individuals increased by 35% in 2017, compared to a 6% increase among the non-Latinx/Hispanic community. 22

7. National opioid crisis.

  • Following national trends due to the opioid epidemic, Philadelphia experienced a drastic (78%) increase in unintentional drug overdose deaths. 23  Individuals experiencing homelessness are at an increased risk for substance use disorders and drug overdose, a risk amplified in Philadelphia given the low cost and high potency of heroin sold on our streets.
  • There were an estimated 1,100 unintentional drug overdoses in Philadelphia in 2017. 20
  • In Philadelphia in 2017, the number of deaths related to unintentional drug totaled more than car accidents and homicides combined. 24
  • According to the City-sponsored Homeless Death Review Team, 87% of decedents who experienced homelessness from 2011-2015 had a known history of substance use or abuse. For 51% of the decedents in the same time frame, drug or alcohol intoxication was a primary or contributing cause of death and 50% of the decedents were known to use opioids. 25
  • The rate of deaths due to unintentional drug overdose among people homelessness doubled between 2011 and 2015. 26

8. Domestic violence

  • On an average night, 250 individuals who are experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia self-report as victims of domestic violence. 27
  • In FY15, the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline received 14,661 calls for assistance with domestic violence issues. 28

Solutions to Homelessness

At Project HOME, we believe in a holistic approach to ending and preventing homelessness and poverty, including: 

1. Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)

  • Permanent Supportive Housing has been shown by multiple national studies to be a cost effective solution to ending homelessness.29  Saving Lives, Saving Money 30 , a study conducted by Project HOME in 2010, concluded that PSH saves $7,700 per person per year (over the cost of serving an unsheltered individual).
  • Affordable housing is a critical component of addressing homelessness, but is insufficient on its own. Integrating housing with case management allows residents to receive services in a timely and convenient manner. Studies have found that individuals and families receiving case management are more likely to have maintained stable housing a year later. 31
  • Investments in PSH have decreased chronic homelessness by 27% since 2007. 32

Project HOME offers a range of subsidized housing for individuals and families who have experienced homelessness, including 802 units of affordable supportive housing, with 72 units in predevelopment and 170 units in the pipeline.2. Opportunities for employment, increased income, and education.

2. Opportunities for employment, increased income, and education.

  • Breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty requires not only housing, but sustainable, competitive employment at a living wage.
  • Connection to mainstream benefits and entitlement income through Benephilly, Homeless Advocacy Project, and other resources is a key component of preventing and ending homelessness.
  • Project HOME’s Adult Learning and Workforce Development Programs provide computer classes, career training, job readiness workshops, life skills workshops, GED classes, adult basic literacy classes, and access to other resources to help local residents improve their lives, gain employment and pursue higher education.

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3. Affordable and accessible healthcare

  • Health and homelessness are inextricably linked.  According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, an acute physical or behavioral health crisis or any long-term disabling condition may lead to homelessness. Homelessness exacerbates chronic medical conditions. 33
  • Holistic healthcare services that address the whole person are most successful. Physical healthcare or dental care can be gateways for people to accept behavioral health services, and holistic healthcare.

Through Project HOME Healthcare Services, we offer integrated physical and behavioral healthcare and recovery services and wellness programs for people who are currently experiencing homelessness or those who are formerly homeless, as well as for people living in the North Philadelphia community.

4. A coordinated approach to crisis response

  • Homelessness prevention programs can help ensure that no one ends up in shelters or on the streets. This includes reinvesting in economically vulnerable neighborhoods, improving the school system, making sure people have access to health care, and providing jobs at a living wage, as well as shelter diversion programs.
  • A coordinated entry system allows individuals to receive housing and services more quickly, and allows organizations to pool data in order to more accurately understand our population’s needs.34  Project HOME is transitioning to a Central Intake model in 2018, in tandem with the City of Philadelphia’s new Coordinated Entry system. These structures will allow Project HOME to place vulnerable individuals in appropriate housing in a more efficient and timely manner.

Project HOME works with Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services and Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities as a part of the local Continuum of Care (a network of government agencies, provider organizations, local stakeholders, and individuals currently or formerly experiencing homelessness) to implement a strategic, city-wide response to homelessness.

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Current number of beds available to homeless people in Philadelphia, according to the 2018 Housing Inventory Chart 35

Emergency Shelter: 3,429

Transitional Housing: 1,244

Safe Havens: 255

Rapid Re-Housing: 1,176

Permanent Supportive Housing: 4,926

TOTAL: 11,030

**Please note that these totals include both single individuals and people in families.


2. It is difficult to calculate the exact number of people living on the street, because many live in hidden park areas, vehicles, or abandoned houses, many chose not to or are not able to provide their true names, and because numbers fluctuate based on weather.