For Philadelphians battling homelessness and hunger, the Democratic National Convention could have an unlikely life-changing impact that will last long after conventioneers pack up and leave town this weekend.
An extra $61,000 set aside by the city to fund about 100 additional respite beds for people who are homeless throughout the city during the DNC, plus another $25,000 for additional street outreach, have helped dozens of people not only get off the city's streets, but begin taking steps toward escaping homelessness, city officials said on Thursday.
"The respite beds are an opportunity for them to feel better and start doing something different," Liz Hersh, director of the city's Office of Homeless Services, said.
For people battling hunger, a food-rescue app launched ahead of the DNC by a group of hunger-relief organizations helped city food pantries get about 7,000 additional meals left over from DNC events to those in need, said Megha Kulshreshtha, founder of Food Connect and creator of the app.
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"With the influx of visitors, we have seen a steady stream of donations and a lot of people reaching out enthusiastically," Kulshreshtha told NBC10. "People are saying, 'Hey, this is wonderful, we have so much food left over we can't serve.' People are just really happy we can donate this food."
On the street in Center City, a woman who is homeless said she's noticed the increase in outreach workers.
"They come every day," Nicole Butler, 40, who said she's been homeless for three months, said as she sat in a breezeway off of 15th and Market streets.
"It's just I'm not ready" to go into shelter, she said.
Hersh said in the first 10 days the added funding, which kicked in over the weeks leading up to the DNC, city outreach workers made contact with 1,000 people, and about 15 percent of them agreed to come into shelter. She said a little more than half of the extra respite beds -- which also come with additional counselors -- were utilized as people stayed temporarily and then moved on to the next level of help.
"The killer thing is it shows what we can do if we have the resources," Hersh said, adding that she hopes the city will be able to continue to fund the extra respite beds long after the convention.
The food-rescue app, although it was launched for the DNC, is here to stay, Kulshreshtha said.
"It sounds like everybody's thought about [donating extra food] and wanted to do it, so it's just making it easy for them," she said.
"[The app] prevents food waste and helps our friends and neighbors who face hunger. It's a win-win," said Tom Mahon, spokesman for the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, which helped launch the app. "This is just the beginning of a partnership that could save countless pounds of food that otherwise would be wasted."
Hersh said the city is now analyzing whether it can continue to fund the additional beds brought for the DNC.
She said she hopes the city can keep the beds added for the DNC long after the convention leaves town, and that officials are in the process of analyzing whether they can continue to be funded.
"What we don't want to do is send [people] back out," Hersh said. "That's one step forward, two steps back."