PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - Philadelphia’s homeless numbers are on the rise, thanks to opioid abuse, according to officials at the city’s Office of Homeless Services. “This is the opioid epidemic,” says Office Director Liz Hersh, from her office across from City Hall. “Some of the folks you’re seeing may not be homeless – they may be panhandling out here for money. But it’s a big hairy problem.”
The opioid epidemic may be responsible for the uptick, says Yolanda, a veteran of several back operations who panhandles at 8th and Market. The original problem, she adds, is more deeply seated. “It costs so much to live, and they know how to get us every time,” says Yolanda, from her wheelchair. “If it wasn’t the soda tax or the cigarette tax, now it’s the food.
Valerie is a homeless woman with a history of opioid abuse. She says some folks don’t get into heroin until they become homeless. “But I also feel like it’s the opposite,” she adds. “You know, that they were using and it caused them to hit rock bottom.”
Liz Hersh at Homeless Services says the city’s adding about 150 permanent housing units this year – as well as dozens of new treatment slots – including medically assisted treatment.