Each day, more than a thousand individuals experience homelessness, mental health, and drug addiction in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties - many of these individuals end up seeking shelter on SEPTA’s vehicles and in our stations often because of the 24/7 access. We understand the basic life-sustaining need for shelter and want to see those in need connected with appropriate resources. Some of those seeking temporary refuge on SEPTA property are victims of abuse, veterans who have not received the critical services they deserve or 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.
SEPTA must focus on our purpose: to deliver safe, reliable, accessible, customer-focused transit services. We recognize the suffering and needs of this population - but we also recognize that our employees and customers often feel unsafe on our system. In response to the crisis - SEPTA partnered with organizations in the community and launched the SCOPE program, coordinated under a newly created Outreach Services Department. SCOPE which stands for Safety, Cleaning, Ownership, Partnership, and Engagement is SEPTA’s system-wide, compassionate approach to connecting vulnerable individuals with social services and providing a safe, clean transit system for both riders and employees.
SCOPE’s mission is to make homelessness on the SEPTA system rare - brief and non-recurring - by creating a clean and safe environment for our customers. We aim to accomplish this by guiding our most vulnerable off the SEPTA system and into places of respite. SEPTA cannot solve this societal public health crisis alone. SCOPE, our partners and the community can work together to make SEPTA safe for all. To fully address this complex - societal problem - we believe policy enforcement must play a role. Lasting solutions require the will and efforts of multiple partners and community leaders to clear the path of structural and systematic barriers.
“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. Each of us can be a part of the solution and continue supporting our community and ending homelessness, ease mental health, and combat illegal drug use on our system.
Watch this short video to learn more - click here.
How to Help the Vulnerable Population
- If you encounter someone from the vulnerable population on SEPTA’s system - respect them as individuals and treat them with dignity. Please do NOT yell or
- If someone appears to be in crisis, contact SEPTA PD (215) 580-8111.
- Utilize one of SEPTA’s reporting tools to connect the individual with help or to report a safety issue. Resources include the SEPTA TransitWatch app, text a tip to (215) 234-1911 or use the call box, located on station platforms or the emergency alarms, located in vehicles, to alert the train operator.
- Increase support and funding for low-barrier, transitional, permanent and affordable housing services in the five-county area.
- Speak up and advocate for affordable housing, emergency shelters and homelessness prevention programs at neighborhood and public meetings.
Download the full plan (PDF) for additional ways you can join SEPTA in advocating and creating systematic solutions to reduce homelessness.
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 recognizes National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week which 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 annually 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 eradicate homelessness in the US completely.
For the third year in a row - SEPTA employees are donating handmade hats, gloves, and scarves so those experiencing homelessness. The Warmth Project began in 2020 when master seamstress and SEPTA employee Maxine Dobbin came up with the idea of collecting extra scraps of fabric from pieces she previously created and sewing them into scarves. She then coordinated internally with those involved in the SCOPE program to put out a mass broadcast amongst all SEPTA employees looking for people who sew, crochet, or knit to create scarves, hats, and other winter items for those in need.
SEPTA’s SCOPE will be collecting hand-crafted items from employees and donating them to local shelters that assist members of the vulnerable population until the month of March.
SEPTA values its role as a partner and leader in finding solutions to challenges facing the communities we serve.