Hand2Paw started it’s mission in 2009 by providing volunteer opportunities at animal shelters for youth residing at Covenant House in Philadelphia, PA. Since then, we’ve expanded and grown our programming to include several programs and work opportunities for young people who may be experiencing housing insecurity, foster care, and justice involvement. Our programming is centered around a humane education framework that combines working with homeless animals with helping young people expand their resilience, coping strategies and job readiness.


Hand2Paw works with young people between the ages of 16 and 24 living in Philadelphia, and experiencing housing insecurity, justice involvement or aging out of DHS care. Our program participants are likely to have faced adversity and life experiences that have significantly impacted their path toward adulthood, including, but not limited to: poverty, trauma, oppression, lack of stable housing and family support, and mental health needs.

Many of the city’s foster children age out of the system without a permanent placement and nearly 40% face homelessness shortly thereafter.

By partnering with agencies that serve homeless teenagers and those aging out of foster care, Hand2Paw is able to reach out to young people who have experienced housing insecurity, and at times abuse and neglect.


Research indicates that only 10% of homeless youth access services designed for them, and that youth disconnected from services experience greater risk for a variety of psychosocial problems including substance use, mental health problems and greater difficulty exiting homelessness [Road to Adulthood]. Our objective is to provide a supportive space that allows youth to utilize the resources and coping skills available to them to create opportunities in employment, schooling, career development, and personal growth.

Although the issue of youth homelessness exists nationwide, the problem is particularly acute in the city of Philadelphia.

  • During the 2019 – 2020 school year, 3,800 children and youth in Philadelphia experienced homelessness. However, the Philadelphia Department of Education suspects that the actual number of students experiencing homelessness is higher.
  • Philadelphia has a 23 percent poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation. Of that 23 percent, over half are living in deep poverty, with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty limit.
  • COVID-19 caused sudden and severe damage to Philadelphia’s economy in 2020.
  • The city’s average unemployment rate was 12.2 percent in 2020, 4 percent higher than the national average of 8 percent.

For more information, check out our Homelessness and Anti-Racism Resources page.

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