IMPACT
07/26/2016 01:46 pm ET Updated Aug 22, 2016

The Surprising Way Philly Treats Homeless People During The DNC

They call it the "City of Brotherly Love" for a reason.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: A homeless man panhandles on a street in downtown Philadelphia where Pope Francis is schedul
Spencer Platt via Getty Images
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: A homeless man panhandles on a street in downtown Philadelphia where Pope Francis is scheduled to visit on September 22, 2015 in New York City. The project, which features hundreds of 'knots', or prayer slips, seeks to represent the struggles individuals go through in life's journey. The Pope will be making his first trip to the United States on a three-city, five-day tour that will begin in Washington on September 22, then travel to New York City and Philadelphia. The Pope will depart on September 27. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

When the conventions come to town every four years, making life a little more stressful for homeless people has become almost as much of a tradition as draping the city in red, white and blue.

Instead of trying to mask and ignore the problem, as other cities have done in the past, Philadelphia is working to help homeless people actually find places to stay as the city’s accommodations are stretched this week during the Democratic National Convention.

The city allocated $61,000 of its DNC budget to provide an additional 110 beds in shelters, according to Philadelphia Magazine. And, $25,000 will go towards supporting about 20 extra outreach workers. 

The city has also partnered with advocates who are well-versed in the issues to help transition homeless people into available shelters, according to ThinkProgress.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 20 : DNC banner pictured in Center City in preperation for the Democratic National Convention in Phil
© Star Shooter/MediaPunch/IPx
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 20 : DNC banner pictured in Center City in preperation for the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa on July 20, 2016 photo credit Star Shooter/MediaPunch/IPX

This approach stands in stark contrast to past conventions.

In 2012, for example, during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, homeless people were banned entirely from a downtown park where they usually slept and the event site, The Huffington Post reported at the time. 

“We had to get our stuff, and then we had to go a mile away or whatever from the facility, the area that was having the convention,” Johnson, 30, told The Huffington Post. “I really didn’t approve of it. We didn’t have nowhere else to go.”

When motel prices skyrocketed in Tampa, and in Charlotte during that year’s DNC, the homeless people who typically relied on such affordable accommodations were also left with nowhere to turn.

Charlotte’s motel prices soared 109 percent during that week, according to the LA Times. 

“I work all day for $60,” Eric Jones, who had recently become homeless, told the news outlet. “Why am I going to pay $60 for a room, then I won’t have enough to spend on food or anything.”

Instead of following the lead of other cities, the City of Brotherly Love is taking a cue from its own past major events.

When the Pope visited Philadelphia last year, the city also expanded its outreach teams and often had them work with staff from the Department of Behavioral Health or formerly homeless peer specialists.

“Our hope is this would be a first step,” Laura Weinbaum of Project HOME, a group that works with homeless people, told ThinkProgress. “Even if the reason resources became available is because of the DNC, obviously we want to make hay when the sun shines.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the 2012 Republican National Convention took place in Charlotte. The Democratic National Convention took place there that year. 

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