Facts on Homelessness | Project HOME

Facts on Homelessness


Scope of Homelessness Nationwide 1

On a single night in January 2016, there were 549,928 people experiencing homelessness in the United States; 68 percent sheltered and 32 percent unsheltered.

  • One quarter (22 percent or 120,819) were children under the age of 18 
  • Nine percent (50,001) were between the ages of 18 and 24
  • 69 percent (or 379,108) were 25 years or older
  • 77,486 individuals and 8,646 people in families met the definition of chronically homeless*
    • Chronic homelessness among individuals declined by seven percent (or 5,684) over the past year, and by 35 percent (or 42,327) between 2007 and 2016
  • 39,471 were veterans, of which less than 10 percent (3,328) were female
    • Between 2015 and 2016, homelessness among veterans declined by 17 percent (8,254 fewer veterans); since 2009, homelessness among veterans declined by 46 percent (33,896)
  • 35,686 were unaccompanied children and youth; 89 percent (31,862) were between the ages of 18 and 24, and 11 percent (3,824) were under age 18
    • The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that during a year approximately 550,000 unaccompanied, single youth and young adults up to the age of 24 experience a homelessness episode of longer than one week 2
  • Homelessness nationally declined by three percent (14,780 people) between 2015 and 2016, and by 15 percent (or 97,330) since 2007

* Chronically homeless individuals are unaccompanied homeless individuals with disabilities who have either been continuously homeless for a year or more or 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.

Scope of Homelessness in Philadelphia 3

  • In 2015, homeless outreach organizations engaged over 6,500 individuals living on the street, in cars, abandoned buildings, train/bus stations, and other places not meant for human habitation 4
  • About 15,000 people (includes families) access shelter in Philadelphia each year. 5 In addition, numerous individuals are turned away from shelter due to capacity
  • The City’s January 2016 Point-in-Time count included 705 unsheltered individuals throughout the entire City of Philadelphia 6


*Starting in 2014, unsheltered counts include increased coverage of the Kensington area and other communities that were not previously included, causing street count numbers have 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 there are many causes of homelessness and many are interwoven. Unfortunately, there is not always good data to demonstrate the impact of these forces. For the purposes of this document, we have chosen to highlight only a few causes of homelessness in Philadelphia with supporting data.

  • Poverty from a lack of jobs at competitive living wages
    • Philadelphia has a 26 percent poverty rate, 7 one of the highest in the nation.
  • Disparity between housing costs and minimum wage, public supports, or earned benefits
    • In Philadelphia, someone would have to work 81 hours per week at the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to afford even a modest one-bedroom apartment 8
    • Pennsylvania’s Social Security Income payment is only $733 per month, 9 when the average one-bedroom rent is $768 per month 10
  • Lack of affordable housing and inadequate housing assistance
    • 84 percent of Philadelphians making less than $20,000 in 2013 paid 30 percent or more of their household income on housing costs and most of these spend more than 50 percent of income on housing 11
    • There are only 35 affordable units for every 100 extremely low-income ($23,000) households 12
  • Lack of affordable health care
    • In Philadelphia, 13 percent of residents are without health insurance 13
    • Out of the 67 counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County is ranked 67th (worst) for health outcomes and 67th (worst) for health factors including health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment 14
    • More than 10 percent of people who seek substance abuse or mental health treatment in our public health system are homeless. Read more about this fact.
  • Inadequate support for mental health and substance use challenges
    • According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, approximately 30 percent of people experiencing chronic homelessness have a serious mental illness, and around two-thirds have a primary substance use disorder or other chronic health condition. These health problems may create difficulties in accessing and maintaining stable, affordable, and appropriate housing
    • Research from the Collaborative Initiative to Help End Chronic Homelessness (CICH), a joint effort of HUD and Veterans Affairs, sheds light on the prevalence of these issues. They indicate that, at program entry, 72 percent of participants had substance use disorders and 76 percent had mental illness problems
  • Racial inequality
    • According to 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 African Americans three times – more likely to be homeless than white Americans. 15
  • Opioid Crisis
    • Following national trends due to the opioid epidemic, Philadelphia has seen a huge rise in substance use. 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.
    • In Philadelphia, the number of deaths related to drug overdose is triple that of the number of homicides.
    • According to the city-sponsored Homeless Death Review Team, 63% of homeless decedents who died in 2009 and 2010 had a history of substance use or abuse. For 44% of the decedents in that time frame, drug or alcohol intoxication was a primary or contributing cause of death and 22% of the decedents were known to use opioids
  • Domestic violence 16
    • On an average night, 250 individuals who are homeless in Philadelphia self-report as victims of domestic violence
    • In FY15, the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline received 14,661 calls for assistance with domestic violence issues

Solutions to Homelessness

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

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)

  • Permanent supportive housing has been shown by multiple national studies to be a cost-effective solution to ending homelessness. Saving Lives, Saving Money 17, a Project HOME study conducted in 2010, concluded that PSH saves $7,700 per person per year (over the cost of serving an unsheltered person).
  • Investments in PSH have decreased chronic homelessness by 30 percent since 2007 18
  • At Project HOME, we offer a range of subsidized PSH for individuals and families who have experienced homelessness. Project HOME has developed 802 units of affordable and supportive housing with an additional 72 units in predevelopment and 170 units in the pipeline.

Opportunities for employment, increased income, and education

  • Breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty requires not only housing, but sustainable, competitive employment at living wages.
  • Connection to benefit and entitlement income, through Benephilly, Homeless Advocacy Project, and other resources is key.
  • At Project HOME, our Adult Learning and Workforce Development Program providers 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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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 also exacerbates chronic medical conditions. 19
  • Often, physical healthcare or dental care can be gateways for people to accept behavioral health services, and holistic healthcare services which address the whole person are the most successful.
  • At Project HOME, our healthcare and recovery service provide integrated health and wellness programs for people who are currently homeless, formerly homeless, or people living in our North Philadelphia Community.

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. 20 Something about case management
  • 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.

How to help

Current number of beds available to homeless people in Philadelphia, according to the 2017 Housing Inventory Chart 21

Emergency: 3,652

Transitional: 1,587

Safe Haven: 85

Permanent: 6,179

TOTAL: 11,503


3. 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, and because numbers fluctuate based on weather.

5. Estimated from 2016 Housing Inventory Chart at http://www.phila.gov/osh/PDF/Philadelphia%20CoC%20-%202016%20Housing%20I... (roughly 3,800 year-round/non-seasonal beds) times average 4 turnovers per year.  City-funded shelter received approximately 10,000 unduplicated individuals in 2015 in 2,700 beds, per James Moore.