Advocacy Projects

Expanding Affordable Housing

The “Opportunity Starts at Home” Campaign

What is Opportunity Starts at Home?

The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign is a long-term, dynamic, multi-sector housing campaign to meet the rental housing needs of the nation’s lowest income people. Various sectors are recognizing that affordable homes are inextricable linked to their own missions and priorities.

Students do better. Patients are healthier. People can more readily escape poverty and homelessness. The economy is more productive. Veterans thrive in communities they were swore to defend. The formerly incarcerated can rebuild their lives. And our nation is more just and equal. It makes sense that leaders from health care, education, civil rights and many other sectors are ready to join in the advocacy to advance solutions to make homes affordable for our nation’s most vulnerable households.

This short video featuring senior leaders from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, National Association of Community Health Centers, NAACP Children’s Defense Fund, Food Research & Action Center, National Education Association, and National Alliance to End Homelessness explains how affordable housing deeply impacts their own sectors of work and why we must break down silos.

New Policy Alert!

Redefining Family Homelessness


This brief takes an introductory look at the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017 (HCYA), focusing on how the legislation aligns HUD’s definition of homelessness with the experience of families. As we talk with providers and partners across the country, we often hear that HUD’s current definition of homelessness negatively impacts providers capacity to serve families. Research also shows that HUD’s definition does not accurately reflect the experience of homelessness for many families.

Under current law, HUD defines homelessness as living in emergency shelter, transitional or supportive housing, and places not meant for human habitation such as cars, parks, and abandoned buildings [1]. However, the recent Chapin Hall Voices of Youth Count[2] data show that homelessness involves multiple circumstances that span beyond what’s included in this definition. The majority of homeless young people [3] many of whom are pregnant or parenting [4] spend periods of time sleeping outside, in cars, in shelters, and on other people’s couches or floors. The data indicate that homelessness is a fluid experience, that housing instability often starts young, and that there is great risk of harm and predation occurring while youth are staying with others as well as in shelters.

Click HERE to find out how you can help!

A Meeting With Carson

Ben Carson Addressing Affiliate Directors

Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network an affiliate of the National Organization, Family Promise. PIHN was the 12th Network to join what has grown to 200+ affiliates in 43 states and was first urban Network to join in 1991. Over the years our local Networks have learned much and have grown in size and scope from a coalition of faith groups providing safety and shelter to families in our congregational buildings to innovators in services, housing and advocacy for vulnerable families across the nation. Last week our directors met with Dr. Carson to share our thoughts on where HUD, the driving funder of programs serving families experiencing homelessness. It is time to focus on families and children.

Family Promise Talking Points for HUD-1 Family Promise Talking Points for HUD-2


PIHN takes D.C. to Prevent Budget Cuts


On July 19th homeless assistance advocates from across the country gathered in Washington D.C. to advocate for a funding increase in the McKinney Ventowant ou Homeless Assistance Program. PIHN sent a small delegation to join the PA contingent. This included, Board President, Michael Serverson along with board members Jaime Mitchell and Joe Willard. David Conradi and Rachel Falkove joined from PIHN staff.

You Can Help by Calling or Emailing our legislators today!

Here’s the issue:

  • Trump proposed budget cuts the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Program by $133 million, plus eliminates entirely the Community Services Block Grant and the Community Development Block Grant. Now Congress needs to make the final decision.
  • Last year, Pennsylvania received $11 million less in McKinney Vento funding compared to 2014. Cutting funding can only lead to more homelessness.


CALL TO ACTION: Email and/or call your two U.S. Senators and your Congressperson today and encourage them not to cut funding to the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Program.

Senator Pat Toomey

Senator Bob Casey

Rep. Dwight Evans: Contact Kimberly Turner:

Rep. Ryan Costello: Contact Dante Cutrona:

Rep. Pat Meehan: Contact Michael Kirlin:

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick: Contact Meghan Schroeder:

Rep. Bob Brady: Contact Eriade Williams:

Rep. Brandan Boyle: Contact Alana Shaw:

What to Say/Email: Hello, my name is [YOUR NAME HERE] from [AGENCY, COUNTY]. I am calling to urge Senator ____ / Representative to fund the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Program to $2.6 billion in FY 18, a $217 million increase that would house approximately 40,000 more people nationally.

Feedback: Please inform us of your activity at and let us know of any responses you receive.


PIHN joins FSPN at
City Council Homelessness Prevention Hearing

Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (PIHN) families, staff and volunteers as well as many representatives from the Family Service Provider’s Network (FSPN) testified on March 13th about the need for a Homelessness Prevention Plan this past Monday at a City Council public hearing. The hearing, sponsored by the Council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and Homelessness advocated for funding for a robust homelessness prevention program to relieve Philly’s log-jammed shelter system with long waiting lists.

Andrea Jourden and Nancy House, PIHN alumni, spoke about their struggles to find housing they could afford and how they are doing so much better since PIHN’s shallow rent subsidy and master lease program. As working, low income families, their stay in shelter could have been shortened or avoided all-together had resources been available earlier. Aubrey, Nancy’s 11 year old daughter spoke eloquently about the impact of housing insecurity on her family and her difficulty concentrating in school when the family was struggling prior to entering PIHN’s Master Lease Housing program that offers shallow rent subsidies. PIHN’s Director Rachel Falkove, and other FSPN providers, suggested that City Council:

1) Direct $3,000,000 from the Housing Trust Fund for Homelessness Prevention efforts.

2) Allocate $3,000,000 from the General Fund to strengthen the contract agencies that have been flat-funded for the past 8 years.

3) Allocate $25,000 for trauma informed care training programs.

We are hopeful that these requested changes combined with strengthening the role of public/private/faith-based partnerships will result in helping 750 families avoid the experience of homelessness.

PIHN families of Andrea Jourden , Nancy and Aubrey House (shown behind the podium) & Rachel Falkove at Press Conference before the Hearing.

Council Prevention hearing-Nancy House testifying-2017-03-13edit

City Council Homelessness Prevention Hearing-PIHN Rachel-2017-03-13 (2)edit

Whats needed in Philly Flyer Front

Whats needed in Philly Flyer Back

You TOO can share your concern about students experiencing homelessness


November 16, 2016

Dear Mayor Kenney:

On any day, 100 Philadelphia families in need of shelter are turned away from our City’s emergency housing options. Every year, more than 4,000 children are homeless in Philadelphia. They are being turned away with no supports and are often food deprived. The main services to help them stabilize only begin when they finally get into shelter. When there is no available shelter and no services, there is no hope.

We need a change. We need public and political will to identify funds for developing new solutions to solve the growing problem of family homelessness in Philadelphia and in our country.

We believe that targeted financial / material supports combined with robust supportive services (financial literacy, education and career planning, employment assistance, therapy, etc.) = homelessness prevention. We know that the City of Philadelphia has several million dollars of new funding that could be used to prevent homelessness. Please support utilizing a portion of the City’s Housing Trust Fund monies for homelessness prevention programs and services to vulnerable families.

Thank you,





The numbers of homeless children and youth in our nation’s schools are growing! The funds to support them in being full participants in school needs to grow too! Add your voice in making our Senators and Representatives aware that we want them to support the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA)! Simply cut and paste this letter into the word processor of your choice and personalize the information with the date, your name, and your representative’s name. For a list of representatives by District, please click here.


U.S. Senate
Washington DC 20510

Dear Senator [LASTNAME]:

I am writing this letter to urge you to:

1) Fund the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program at $71.5 million
2) Fund the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) program at $121 million
3) Co-sponsor the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA)/S. 256

Funding the EHCY program is important because:

  • More than 19,000 students in Pennsylvania’s schools were homeless last year, but many more homeless and schools are not able to help them.
  • The program exhibits overwhelming evidence that it removes barriers to the enrollment, attendance, and success of homeless children and youth in schools.
  • There has been an 85% increase in the number of homeless children and youth identified in public schools since 2006-2007 the funding needs to increase with the enrollment.

Funding for the RHYA programs is important because:

  • The program serves homeless youth by meeting their immediate needs, providing long-term residential services, and conducting prevention and outreach efforts to move youth out of homelessness.
  • RHYA funded Basic Center Programs have turned away 10,519 youth since FY 2010 due to a lack of bed.
  • Only 25% of RHYA grant applications currently receiving funding.

Co-sponsoring HCYA is important because:

  • It amends HUD’s definition of homelessness to include children and youth who are verified as homeless through other federal programs, such as public school district homeless liaisons, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, Health Care for the Homeless programs, and Violence Against Women programs.
  • It prohibits HUD from prioritizing one group over another. Communities would be guided by local needs assessments that fit their populations.

Thank you for your consideration of these issues




August 1, 2014: Your Support is Needed!

PIHN is an affiliate of Family Promise, supporting nearly 200 Interfaith Hospitality Network/Family Promise Groups groups around the United States and 14 in Pennsylvania. Our own Network wants to draw attention to the important issue of recognizing all unstably housed families as homeless for the purpose of appropriately including them in the homelessness count and whatever services they might be entitled to.

Six years ago, Family Promise Affiliates were important voices in the national effort to expand the HUD definition of homelessness during the process of reauthorizing McKinney Vento legislation. It was, and is, our contention that families who are living doubled up or in motels are homeless, as they are under the federal definitions of homelessness under domestic violence, health, youth, education, and early childhood legislation. When the HEARTH Act was signed in 2009, the HUD definition of homelessness fell short of our aspirations.

Last week, the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2014 (HR 5186, S. 2653) was introduced in the House by George Miller (D-CA) and Steve Stivers, (R-OH). The senate bill is sponsored by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Rob Portman (R-OH). This bill again seeks to amend the current definition of homelessness to include children who are living in temporary situations such as living in motels or doubled up. Here is a link to the Text of Homeless Child and Youth Act.

Family Promise national office will be working hard to see that this legislation passes. We urge you to support the passage of this bill that gives families with children equal opportunity to compete for housing opportunities now, not in the next two to six years. HUD’s current definition of homelessness excludes children, youth, and families who are living in motels or temporarily with others because they have nowhere else to go. These situations are chaotic, unstable, overcrowded, and often dangerous, resulting in negative emotional and health outcomes for children and youth, as well as putting them at risk of physical and sexual abuse and trafficking.

As the national office prepares a plan of action to promote passage of this bill, we’d ask you to read the attached document and learn more about the bill by going to The Homeless Child and Youth Act website. On that website you will also find information how to find your congressman and senators. Some national organizations that serve the homeless and who are satisfied with the status quo are opposing this legislation. It is important to know what this legislation actually proposes, and why National strongly supports it.

After reading about the bill, please contact your representative and both senators and ask them to support this bipartisan legislation.

National will develop a plan around Making Homeless Families Count so that you can inform you congregations and volunteers about the importance of this legislation and how to ask them to show their support.

Recent developments in HUD regulations and procedures can make the task of serving homeless families more difficult. More information on this will be forthcoming within days. Passing the Homeless Child and Youth Act will give the children we serve the priority they deserve in federal regulations.

If you have any questions about this legislation or any suggestions on how best to engage volunteers, please contact Frank McCann, Director of Education and Public Policy at, or 908-273-1100 x 14.



Karen Olson, President
Family Promise


We all agree. No infant or toddler should be homeless. Today, we are asking you to take one small step to help them. Click Here to join the Homeless Infants and Toddlers Coalition.

Our first task is to help State Representative Justin Simmons (R, Lehigh) enact HB 2204.  It would amend the Early Intervention Services System Act to automatically provide early intervention services to homeless infants and toddlers, and then track them. This is a critical step forward to help these children get what they need.

The bill has momentum. It has already gained unanimous support in the House Human Service Committee and is on track to be debated in the House this June.  On the Senate side of the Capitol, Senator Chuck McIlhinney, Jr (R, Bucks) is preparing a companion bill.

This is all good news. But we still need your help.

The goal of the Homeless Infants and Toddlers Coalition is to demonstrate support from organizations concerned for the welfare of homeless infants and toddlers.

Click Here to see the Campaign for What Works one-pager that describes the issue and the impact of homelessness on these very young children.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Ray Firth at 412-973-8806 or


Joyce Sacco, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania

Click the picture below┬áto download┬áthe Campaign for What Works’ one-pager on removing hurdles to early intervention for homeless infants and toddlers:

campaign for what works one pager