In Council News, Featured, Katherine Gilmore Richardson by Khara Garcia

KGR Header 2 (Majority Leader)

The Office would have the authority to act as an advocate on behalf of Philadelphians experiencing homelessness, investigate client grievances, and identify new opportunities for systemic change

PHILADELPHIA – Today, Philadelphia City Council passed Majority Leader Katherine Gilmore Richardson’s (At-Large) legislation to establish the Office of Homeless Services Ombudsperson. An ombudsperson is an individual appointed to investigate complaints against an institution, seek resolutions to those complaints, ensure the integrity of the institution, and identify new opportunities for systemic change.

The Office would have the authority to act as an advocate on behalf of Philadelphians experiencing homelessness and their families, investigate client grievances, and provide oversight and recommendation to the Managing Director’s Office. The office would also be able to conduct investigations, including the power to subpoena testimony and records to the extent legally permissible. Establishing the office requires a change to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter and is expected to be placed on the ballot for the spring 2025 election.

“Throughout my years-long investigation into the financial mismanagement of the Office of Homeless Services (OHS), I have heard from countless unhoused Philadelphians on their experiences interfacing with OHS and navigating our city’s homeless services system,” said Majority Leader Gilmore Richardson. “From overcoming hurdles to be placed in an emergency shelter to facing retaliation when speaking up for better conditions, the stories I have heard have been absolutely horrifying. This is why I was inspired to create an Office of Homeless Services Ombudsperson. We need someone who will serve as a champion on behalf of unhoused residents and ensure that they are receiving timely and quality services.”

This legislation was introduced following Majority Leader Gilmore Richardson’s discovery that OHS significantly mismanaged its budget and has consistently provided poor quality of service to unhoused Philadelphians. In early 2023, Majority Leader Gilmore Richardson attempted to assist families with children who were facing unstable and unhealthy living conditions. Throughout this process, the Majority Leader herself received unsatisfactory service for those families, which led to her taking a deep dive into the Office’s spending and contracting practices, as well as asking significant questions about the quality of their services.

Several cities across the United States have established an Office of Homeless Ombudsperson including New York City, Washington D.C., and San Diego. Stories of unhoused residents navigating Philadelphia’s homeless services system can be viewed here starting at the 11:37 mark until 1:32:44.  


Majority Leader Katherine Gilmore Richardson is the youngest person to be elected majority leader and the youngest Black woman ever elected to Philadelphia City Council. As an at-large councilmember, she has championed issues such as advancing workforce development opportunities, protecting Philadelphia’s fiscal stability, uplifting working parents, addressing quality of life issues, and ensure environmental justice and climate resiliency. Stay updated at PHLCouncil.com, on Facebook & Instagram @CouncilmemberKGR and on Twitter @CouncilwomanKGR. 

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