In 1988, the Homeless Health Initiative (HHI), an initiative of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), began to meet the healthcare needs of children residing in nearby shelters. With your help, over the years we have grown — in scope of service, number of shelters served, programs offered in the different shelters, the number of volunteers trained and educated about the intersection of homelessness and healthcare, the number of community partnerships built and, finally, in our ability to improve the physical health and well-being of children and families experiencing homelessness.

In 2017, HHI boosted our efforts to engage more CHOP employees in community service through volunteering at our partner shelters. Learn more about these incredible employees and the explosion of the Art Program at People’s Emergency Center in our annual report.

Research into role of fathers when children live in shelters

Over the past decade, systems of care for families in shelter have changed, moving from just providing emergency shelter to including transitional housing, then permanent housing, then rapid rehousing. What has remained constant throughout all these changes is the system’s desire to help families. Yet, these changes have added stress and negatively impacted some families, especially when fathers have been separated from their families when they sought shelter. In 2017, after a nine-year part-time doctoral journey, I completed research on fathers who are not living with their children in shelters. I sought to study their perceptions of their parenting role while their children were living in shelters. My results support earlier research that espoused the important contributions fathers can make to their children’s development and well-being.

In 2018, HHI — in collaboration with its many partners, including the city of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services — will work together to advocate for the inclusion of fathers for the benefit of their children, families and, ultimately, our communities. Learn more about my research.

I continue to be grateful to work with the hardworking HHI leadership team and volunteers, shelter staff and families, HHI donors, and supporters who help make our work possible. Thanks for a great year, and I look forward to working with you in 2018!

HHI stats 2017

Operation choices


  • 146 sessions (average of 9 children per session)

Women’s Wellness at PEC

  • 36 knitting classes (average of 6 women per class)

CHOP nights

  • Total Visits: 22
  • Children Seen: 176
  • Medical Checkups: 153
  • Dental Checkups: 126
  • Volunteers: 328
  • Medical Follow-up: 93
  • Dental Follow-up: 105

Contributed by: Karen Hudson, PhD, MSW, LSW