Philly opening door to homeless with extra beds, more outreach during DNC

Listen
 (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

(Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Starting next week, Philadelphia will temporarily have more shelter beds and people to help the homeless.

As part of the city’s budget for the Democratic National Convention, the Office of Supportive Housing is spending $61,000 to open up another 110 beds the week before and the week of the convention.

Another $25,000 will support up to 20 additional outreach workers during the same span.

Several different outfits that already provide shelter beds are finding space to add more. In some cases, they have extra space. In others, they’re making more beds available. It depends on the provider.

“It is definitely our hope that by the opportunities that these beds present, we’ll be giving people that first step on a path towards recovery, towards housing stability or towards getting the physical or behavioral health care that they need as well as some placements in some longer term housing,” said Laura Weinbaum, vice president for public affairs and strategic initiatives at Project HOME.

The closure of LOVE Park and Center City construction has sent more homeless to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where some daytime DNC events are scheduled.

OSH Director Liz Hersh said the extra beds aren’t about hiding the city’s homeless while Philadelphia is in the international spotlight.

“Nobody is telling me to sweep the streets. We’re not telling anybody to sweep the streets. We are doing what we always do,” said Hersh.

Roughly 60 outreach workers will be on hand in Center City and West Philadelphia near 30th Street Station.

They’ll be letting homeless people know about the DNC, as well as the services and resources available to them.

The workers will also be there to help visitors if they have general questions about homelessness or see a situation they think calls for intervention.

Up to 50,000 people are expected to stream into Philadelphia for the DNC.

“If you see somebody on the street who, for example, is clearly hearing voices, if they’re in traffic, if they seem to be in physical distress, for example, they’re not dressed appropriately for the weather. It’s very hot. They have a big overcoat on. Any of those behaviors that are upsetting to see because you know something isn’t right,” said Hersh.

In 2015, the city counted more than 15,000 homeless people. Roughly 700 of them sleep on the streets each night.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.