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National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

November 6, 2023

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is celebrated each year - one week before Thanksgiving. This year - it takes place from Saturday, November 11 through Saturday, November 18.

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week creates awareness about the big problem the less fortunate face in society. It is organized every year by the National Coalition for the Homeless and is a chance for Americans to contribute to a social cause and help others. The ultimate goal of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and the National Coalition for the Homeless is to completely eradicate homelessness in the US.

With the upcoming holiday season and harsh winters - it can be a particularly difficult time for many and especially difficult for those struggling with hunger and shelter.

Each day hundreds of individuals experiencing homelessness, mental health and drug addiction seek shelter in SEPTA stations and on our vehicles because our property offers immediate shelter - often on a 24/7 basis. We understand that all people have the same basic life-sustaining need for shelter. The struggle to fulfill basic needs like food and shelter can be difficult for many Americans who live paycheck-to-paycheck. An illness, injury, or job loss can easily lead to poverty, hunger, and homelessness. We want to see those in need connected with appropriate resources. 

Many homeless people are wrongfully thought of as criminals or miscreants. National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week hopes to educate people about the reasons why people find themselves without shelter.

Some of the people seeking temporary refuge on SEPTA property are victims of abuse - including domestic violence and elder abuse. Some are veterans who have not received the critical services they deserve. Others are young people who have aged out of foster care. This population - which we call the vulnerable population - represents a humanitarian crisis and we are committed to addressing this complex societal issue in a compassionate and impactful way. And it's why SEPTA created our nationally recognized SCOPE program in 2021 and our comprehensive plan - Leading the Way: SEPTA’s Response to Safety and Security detailing our ongoing strategy for addressing safety, security, and the challenges of the vulnerable population on the system. You can read about SCOPE's current plan here!

If you encounter someone from the vulnerable population on the SEPTA system - please do NOT yell or provoke them even if they are loitering on the system and put your own safety at risk. Inform a SEPTA Transit Police Officer or SEPTA Outreach worker wearing a vest from Merakey, ODAAT, or Eagle Staffing. The outreach personnel work in close coordination with the SEPTA Transit Police Department - which has increased patrols on trains and at stations in recent months. SEPTA’s strategy is to increase visibility while compassionately engaging and connecting the vulnerable population to resources.

SEPTA has a long history of implementing industry-leading solutions to address homelessness on our system. In 2017 - we began working with the nonprofit Project HOME to create a new homeless engagement center known as the Hub of Hope which opened in 2018. Located in the Suburban Station Concourse and managed by Project Hope staff - the 11,000-square-foot facility offers meals, laundry services, showers, medical treatment, and case management, among other resources.

SEPTA has also worked to help those experiencing homelessness through the SEPTA Warmth Project. For the third year in a row - SEPTA employees (on their free time) are knitting, crocheting , and sewing hats, gloves, and scarves so those experiencing homelessness may feel the warmth of the holiday season throughout the frigid winter months to come.

SEPTA is also working to increase public awareness of the vulnerable population’s needs and encourage everyone to be a part of the solution. If you encounter someone who is experiencing homelessness or addiction on the system - respect them as individuals and treat them with dignity. If they are in need of assistance - you can:

Call SEPTA Police at 215-580-8111

Download and use SEPTA’s Transit Watch App

Text-a-Tip to 215-234-1911 

What we ask that you DON'T DO is provide cash to these individuals which can keep them trapped in the interminable cycle of homelessness and in some cases addition.

“We are tackling some of the most difficult issues society faces - and we need the involvement of everyone in pursuing solutions,” said SEPTA General Manager/CEO Leslie S. Richards. 

Even when you are not riding - you can help. Reach out to your local elected officials to ask what they are doing about homelessness, addiction and mental health. Speak up in favor of low-income housing, group homes, shelters, and homelessness prevention programs at neighborhood and public meetings. The celebrations of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week also help remind lawmakers and politicians to make policies that will eradicate homelessness.

Data shows that about 43 million Americans live below the poverty level and one in five children is afflicted by poverty. Approximately half a million Americans are without a home. Organizations help out by providing food, a place to sleep, medicines, and more. Celebrate the week by supporting local organizations that help people find jobs, permanent homes, medical facilities, and food.

Doing your part for those less fortunate goes a long way - for everybody.