SEPTA expands outreach to homeless in transit sites

SEPTA is dramatically expanding the number of outreach workers to address drug users and people living at transit stations.

The SEPTA board has approved three contracts totaling $3.6 million to increase the number of social service workers from seven to 57 for the next year.

Last spring, SEPTA launched a pilot program at Somerset Station along the Market-Frankford Line, using contracted outreach workers to connect needy people with treatment and services.

“After six months, we are seeing encouraging results,” SEPTA general manager Leslie Richards told the board. “I want to thank all the board members for approving additional outreach workers and supporting staff to service our five-county service area.”

The pilot was launched after Somerset Station’s temporary closure for cleaning and elevator repairs earlier this year. The station in Kensington sits at the center of the city’s opioid crisis.

SEPTA also plans to add outreach workers to Allegheny Station and the Frankford and 69th Street transportation centers on the Market-Frankford Line, as well as Suburban and Jefferson stations.

“Rather than approach this purely as a law enforcement problem, we forged partnerships with nonprofits, universities and the city to connect people to community-based resources,” Richards explained.

“These outreach workers will work in coordination with and respond to requests from our SEPTA police officers, elevator attendants, station cashiers, and maintenance and custodial employees to engage members of our vulnerable population.”

Richards told the board the transit agency is trying to prepare for an increase in ridership this fall, and the expanded outreach should improve conditions for SEPTA’s riders and employees.

The board authorized contracts of $1.9 million with Merakey Parkside Recovery, $1.3 million with One Day at a Time, Inc., and $461,000 with Eagle Staffing agencies to provide the outreach workers.​

From KYW Newsradio