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 8,347 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 2017-2018 school year, 7,288 children and youth in Philadelphia experienced homelessness.
- The Philadelphia Department of Education (PDE) reports that of 3,899 School District of Philadelphia (SDP) students experiencing homelessness, 58 percent remained in their school of origin, 19 percent attended different school, and 5 percent enrolled in more than two schools.
Unsheltered Totals and Center City Totals
|2016 Unsheltered total||2016 Center City count only||2017 Unsheltered total||2017 Center City count only||2018 Unsheltered total||2018 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 25.7 percent poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation. Of that 26 percent, over half (14 percent) are living in deep poverty, with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty limit.
- On the economic front, the city had an average of 724,400 jobs in 2018, the highest total since 1991.
- In 2016, 61 percent of the city’s working-age poor, those aged 16 to 64, were not in the workforce, meaning they were neither employed nor looking for work.
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 $783 per month, while the average fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $815 per month—not to mention other costs of living.
Lack of affordable housing and inadequate housing assistance
- Over half (54 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 41 affordable housing units for every 100 extremely low income households (those making $23,850 or less per year). This means 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 abuse or mental health treatment in our public health system are experiencing homelessness.
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.
- 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. Minorities are about 1.5 times—and Black Americans 3 times—more likely to experience homelessness than White Americans.
- The rate of unsheltered homelessness among Latinx/Hispanic individuals increased by 35 percent in 2017, compared to a six percent increase among the non-Latinx/Hispanic community.
National opioid crisis
- Following national trends due to the opioid epidemic, Philadelphia experienced a drastic (78 percent) increase in unintentional drug overdose deaths.
- 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.
- In Philadelphia in 2017, the number of deaths related to unintentional drug totaled more than car accidents and homicides combined.
- 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 or abuse. 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 9,500 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.