Facts on Homelessness
Call the Philadelphia Homeless Outreach Hotline at 215-232-1984 to get help for someone experiencing homelessness.
Homelessness in the United States
All information extracted from the 2020 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress.
On a single night in January 2020, there were 580,000 people experiencing homelessness in the United States. Sixty-one percent were sheltered individuals and 39 percent were unsheltered.
Homelessness increased from 2019 to 2020 for the third year in a row. However, since 2007, chronic homelessness has declined overall by 10 percent.
- Homelessness increased nationally by 0.2 percent between 2019 and 2020, accounted for by a 7 percent increase in unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness and a decrease in sheltered individuals experiencing homelessness.
- Overall homelessness has decreased by 12 percent since 2008.
- Seventy percent of people experiencing homelessness were adults in households without children. The remaining 30 percent of people experiencing homelessness did so as part of a family.
- Eighteen percent (or 106,364 individuals) of those experiencing homelessness were children under the age of 18.
- Eight percent (45,243 individuals) were between the ages of 18 and 24
On a single night in 2020, about 34,000 unaccompanied youth—people under the age of 25 experiencing homelessness on their own—were experiencing homelessness. Ninety percent of these individuals were between the ages of 18 and 24 and 50 percent of unaccompanied youth were unsheltered. Less than 1 percent of people experiencing homelessness, 3,598, were children under 18 without an adult present.
Nearly 96,000 individuals experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2010 had chronic patterns of homelessness.
Chronic homelessness among individuals increased by 15 percent between 2019 and 2020 but is 8 percent lower since 2007. However, 2020 had the highest recorded number of chronically homeless individuals since 2008.
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.*
Just over 37,252 veterans were experiencing homelessness in the U.S.
- Since 2009, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has decreased by 49 percent (36,115 individuals).
*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
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.
- Approximately 8,206 unduplicated people (including families) accessed emergency shelter in Philadelphia last year. In addition, numerous individuals were turned away from shelter due to limited capacity.
During the 2019 - 2020 school year, 3,800 children and youth in Philadelphia experienced homelessness. However, the Philadelphia Department of Education suspects that the actual number of students experiencing homelessness is higher.
Unsheltered Totals and Center City Totals
|2018 Unsheltered total||2018 Center City count only||2019 Unsheltered total||2019 Center City count only||2020 Unsheltered total||2020 Center City count only|
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.
Lack of jobs at competitive living wages
Philadelphia has a 23 percent poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation. Of that 26 percent, over half (11.1 percent) are living in deep poverty, with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty limit.
COVID-19 caused sudden and severe damage to Philadelphia’s economy in 2020.
The city’s average unemployment rate was 12.2 percent in 2020, 4 percent higher than the national average of 8 percent.
Disparity between housing costs and minimum wage, public supports, or earned benefits
- In Philadelphia, a person would have to work 86 hours per week at the minimum hourly wage of $7.25 to afford even a modest one-bedroom apartment.
- Pennsylvania’s Supplemental Security Income payment is only $805 per month, while the average fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $811 per month—not to mention other costs of living.
Lack of affordable housing and inadequate housing assistance
- Over half (52 percent) of Philadelphians pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent, which reflects low incomes and unaffordable housing, rather than simply high rent costs.
- There are only 37 affordable housing units for every 100 extremely low income households (those making $23,850 or less per year). This means over 60 percent 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 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) of $38,253.
Lack of affordable health care
- In Philadelphia, 8 percent of residents are without health insurance.
- 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.
- More than 10 percent of people who seek substance use or mental health treatment in our public health system are experiencing homelessness.
Inadequate support for mental health and substance use challenges
According to the 2020 Community Behavioral Health (CBH) Annual Report there are over 735,000 eligible participants in the Philadelphia area while only 116,000 used CBH services.
In January 2016, one in five people experiencing homelessness had a serious mental illness, and a similar percentage had a chronic substance use disorder.
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 percent of participants had a substance use disorder and 76 percent had a mental illness.
- 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. Black Americans are 3 times—and Native Americans are 4 times—more likely to experience homelessness than White Americans.
- The rate of unsheltered homelessness among Latinx/Hispanic individuals increased by fifty percent since 2016, compared to a twenty five percent increase in overall unsheltered homelessness.
National opioid crisis
- 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 fentanyl and heroin sold on our streets.
- There were an estimated 1,200 unintentional fatal drug overdoses in Philadelphia in 2020.
- In 2020, there was a stark rise in racial disparities in opioid overdoses. There was a 50 percent spike in fatal overdoses suffered by Black individuals, whereas the rate for white individuals fell by 31 percent over the same Period.
- According to the City-sponsored Homeless Death Review Team, 87 percent of decedents who experienced homelessness from 2011-2015 had a known history of substance use disorder. For 51 percent of the decedents in the same time frame, drug or alcohol intoxication was a primary or contributing cause of death and 50 percent of the decedents were known to use opioids.
- The rate of deaths due to unintentional drug overdose among people homelessness doubled between 2011 and 2015.
- On an average night, 250 individuals who are experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia self-report as victims of domestic violence.
- The Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline—operated by Women Against Abuse—receives more than 13,000 calls each year from domestic violence victims, concerned family members and friends, and community members.
Voices of Youth Count and Point in Time (PIT) Count data highlight that LGBTQ youth, youth of color, parenting youth, and youth with history of involvement with child welfare and justice systems are over-represented within Philadelphia’s population of youth experiencing homelessness.
According to a 2017 study by Brianna Remster, 8 percent of formerly incarcerated men in Philadelphia experienced homelessness within 8 years post-release, which is a rate 22 times higher than the general Philadelphian population.
Formerly incarcerated Philadelphians who are Black men are three times at risk of experiencing homelessness, and older individuals are at heightened risk.
Solutions to Homelessness
At Project HOME, we believe in a holistic approach to ending and preventing homelessness and poverty, including:
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, 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.
- Investments in PSH have decreased chronic homelessness by 27 percent since 2007.
Project HOME offers a range of housing for individuals and families who have experienced homelessness, including 936 units of affordable supportive housing, with 40 units in predevelopment and 112 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 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 Employment 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.
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.
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's 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.
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. Project HOME transitioned to a Central Intake model in 2018, in tandem with the City of Philadelphia’s new Coordinated Entry system. These structures 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.