Facts on Homelessness | Project HOME

Facts on Homelessness


Scope of Homelessness in the United States 1

On a single night in January 2017, there were 553,742 people experiencing homelessness in the United States; 65%  were sheltered individuals and 35%  were unsheltered individuals.

  • 20% of those experiencing homelessness (114,829 individuals) were children under the age of 18.
  • 10% (53,438 individuals) were between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • Of the 168,257 youth (people under 24), 40,799 were unaccompanied. 12% (4,800) of unaccompanied youth were minors under the age of 18.
    • “Unaccompanied youth were more likely to be unsheltered (55%) than both all people experiencing homelessness (35%) and all people experiencing homelessness as individuals (48%).”
  • 70% (385,475) were 25 years old or older.
  • Two thirds of those experiencing homelessness were individuals, while one third identified as a member of a family experiencing homelessness.
  • 24% of individuals (86,962) and 5% of people in families (8,457) met the definition of chronically homeless.*
    • Chronic homelessness among individuals increased by 12% from 2016 but has declined overall by 27% (32,851) since 2007.
    •  Nearly one quarter of individuals experiencing homelessness had chronic patterns of homelessness (86,962).
    • 70% of chronically homeless individuals were unsheltered, while only 48% of all individuals experiencing homelessness were unsheltered.
    • California accounted for more than half of the nation’s unsheltered chronically homeless individuals (53%).
  • 40,056 veterans were experiencing homelessness in the US (9% of all homeless adults), of which less than 10% were women.
    • Since 2009, the number of homeless veterans has decreased by 45% (33,311).
  • Homelessness nationally increased by 0.7% between 2016 and 2017, accounted for by a 9% increase in unsheltered homeless individuals and a 3% decrease in sheltered homeless individuals. Since 2007, homelessness has declined overall by 14%.

* Chronically homeless individuals are individuals with disabilities who have either been continuously homeless 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.

Scope of Homelessness in Philadelphia 2

  • Each year, Philadelphia homeless outreach organizations engaged over 6,000 individuals living on the street, in cars, abandoned buildings, train/bus stations, and other places not meant for human habitation. 3
  • Approximately 15,000 people (including families) access shelter in Philadelphia each year.4 In addition, numerous individuals are turned away from shelter due to capacity.

*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 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 our purposes, we have chosen to highlight only a few causes of homelessness in Philadelphia with supporting data

1. Poverty from a lack of jobs at competitive living wages. 

  •  Philadelphia has a 26% poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation. Of that 26%, nearly half (12.2%) are living in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of the federal poverty limit. 5

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. 6
  •  Pennsylvania’s Supplemental Security Income payment is only $750 per month 7, while the average fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,003 per month 8 -- nearly double the amount of the SSI payment.

3. Lack of affordable housing and inadequate housing assistance.

  • Over half (56%) of Philadelphians pay more than 30% of their income on rent, which is a reflection of low incomes and unavailable housing, rather than simply high rent costs. 9
  • There are only 41 affordable housing units for every 100 extremely low income households (those making $23,850 or less per year) 10.  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. 11

4. Lack of affordable health care.

  • In Philadelphia, 10% of residents are without health insurance. 12
  • Of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County once again ranked 67th (worst) for health outcomes and 67th (worst) for health factors including health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. 13
  • More than 10% of people who seek substance abuse or mental health treatment in our public health system are homeless. 14

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

  • In January 2016, one in five people experiencing homelessness had a serious mental illness, and a similar percentage had a chronic substance use disorder. 15
  • 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. 16

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 be homeless than White Americans. 17
  • 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. 18

7. National opioid crisis.

  •  Following national trends due to the opioid epidemic, Philadelphia experienced a drastic (78%) increase in unintentional drug overdose deaths 19.  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 unintentional drug overdose is 2.5 times greater than the number of homicides. 20
  • According to the City-sponsored Homeless Death Review Team, 87% of homeless decedents 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. 21
  • The rate of deaths due to unintentional drug overdose among homeless persons doubled between 2011 and 2015. 22

8. Domestic violence

  • On an average night, 250 individuals who are homeless in Philadelphia self-report as victims of domestic violence. 23
  •  In FY15, the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline received 14,661 calls for assistance with domestic violence issues. 24

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 25. Saving Lives, Saving Money 26, 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 person).
  • 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. 27
  • Investments in PSH have decreased chronic homelessness by 27% since 2007. 28

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.

  • Breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty requires not only housing, but sustainable, competitive employment at living wages.
  • Connection to mainstream benefit 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 also exacerbates chronic medical conditions. 29
  • 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.

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 30. 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 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 2017 Housing Inventory Chart 31

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.