September 21, 2021
Philadelphia has joined a White House effort aimed at reducing homelessness across the United States.
The House America initiative provides communities a slice of a $5 billion grant from the American Rescue Plan to reduce homelessness.
Philadelphia received $42 million and 863 emergency housing vouchers, with a goal to provide housing to 3,000 people, KYW reported. Los Angeles, Boston and Washington D.C. are among the other cities joining the initiative.
Last year, 5,634 people were experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia when the city conducted its annual point-in-time count, according to the Office of Homeless Services. Of them, 4,676 were living in emergency and transitional housing. The other 958 people were unsheltered.
Those numbers were down slightly from previous years.
The House America initiative aims to get people experiencing homelessness into permanent homes by providing rental assistance and increasing the amount of affordable and supporting housing, The Hill reported.
It advocates a "housing first" approach, the idea that the best way to address homelessness is to ensure people have a home without any pre-qualifying conditions, according to the White House. Nationally, the effort aims to house 100,000 households.
Mayor Jim Kenney said Philadelphia will use its funding to re-house people experiencing homelessness and to add new units of affordable housing into the development pipeline by Dec. 31, 2022.
"We are proud of our progress and our commitment to affordable housing, but we know that cities cannot do it alone," Kenney said. "With a housing first approach and the support of our partners in the White House, we can make significant progress in helping to make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring."
More than 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the United States during a count conducted in January 2020, according to a federal homeless assessment report. The COVID-19 pandemic soon brought new challenges.
In Philadelphia, emergency housing shelters had to reduce bed density to ensure social distancing and quarantine people who displayed COVID-19 symptoms. Between March and August 2020, the Office of Homeless Services sheltered more than 6,500 people, and just 120 positive COVID-19 cases were reported.
The U.S. Treasury Department also is pushing communities to utilize $350 billion in state and local recovery funds to address homelessness and housing stability. That funding also was allocated in the American Rescue Plan.