• Ralph Thurman

These 6 Programs Help Single Parents in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is one of the nation’s most fascinating cities, with a rich history, diverse population, and underrated culinary scene. But unfortunately, Philly is also the “poorest” major city in the United States.

Philadelphia has struggled with poverty for decades. According to the Economy League, nearly one-quarter of the city’s residents live in poverty. However, this number has been in a steady decline since 2011. In fact, 2019 saw the lowest percentage of residents living in poverty since 2005.

Making ends meet as a single parent can be especially difficult in Philadelphia. Fortunately, there are several nonprofit and government initiatives designed to provide financial assistance to single parents in Philadelphia. If you’re struggling to pay the bills while raising children on your own, here are some places that may be able to help.

1. Tenant’s Rental Assistance Corporation (TRAC)

Affordable housing can be hard to come by in Philadelphia, especially if you’re looking for a multiple-bedroom apartment or house on a single salary. The Tenant’s Rental Assistance Corporation (TRAC) is designed to help single parents and other Philadelphians who are struggling to make their rent payments each month. TRAC offers several different rental and housing programs, including emergency funds and cash assistance. All of TRAC’s programs are free. Learn more by calling them at (215) 575-0700.

2. Emergency Shelter Allowance Program

The Emergency Shelter Allowance Program offers financial assistance to residents of all sections of Philadelphia. This program is dedicated to providing struggling Philadelphia families with temporary rental assistance distributed through emergency funds and cash. This assistance helps tenants facing eviction remain in their homes and pay utilities.

A variety of vulnerable groups benefit from this program, including single mothers, people who are unemployed, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and other underserved populations.

3. Cradles to Crayons

Cradles to Crayons is a charitable program dedicated to helping children in Philadelphia and beyond access the essentials all kids need. This organization raises donations of new and nearly new children’s items through grassroots community initiatives and donations from corporations. Many donations are made through the group's online donation platform, Giving Factory Direct.

These donations are processed and packaged by volunteers at the Cradles to Crayons warehouse, the Giving Factory. The packages are distributed to underserved children throughout the Philadelphia area through a diverse network of partnerships.

Cradles to Crayons was launched in Boston in 2002. Since the founding of this original branch, the organization expanded to the Greater Philadelphia Area in 2006, Chicago in 2016, and New York City in 2020.

The organization’s various branches benefit children from birth through age 12, providing items that they need for school, play, and their home lives.

4. Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF)

The Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF) uses holistic, preventative, and cost-efficient measures to help vulnerable Philadelphia families facing housing emergencies.

UESF has been providing financial assistance to Philadelphia families since 1983, with an exclusive focus on emergency utility assistance for its first 26 years of existence. It provides financial assistance through utility grants, which help families prevent service interruptions in electricity, gas, water, and other utilities.

UESF expanded its mission in 2009 to encompass assistance for housing insecurity in general, rather than solely utilities. It partners with several community organizations that provide resources dedicated to addressing housing stability in the Philadelphia area. Some of UESF’s programs include:

  • Utility Grant Program

  • Philadelphia Works Partnership

  • Oil Assistance Program

  • Veterans Program

  • Family Empowerment Program

  • Water Conservation Housing Stabilization Program

  • BenePhilly Center

  • Shelter to Permanent Housing

  • Customer Assistance Program for Water

  • Self-Sufficiency Workshops

  • College Savings Account Program


5. Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA)

Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA) strives to enforce and protect the legal rights of low-income Philadelphians by providing legal guidance and working toward systemic change in the justice system.

PLA was founded in 1996 and provides free civil legal services to more than 6,000 Philadelphia individuals and families each year. These services cover a wide range of legal issues, including but not limited to:


  • Victims of domestic violence

  • Losing a family home

  • Loss of employment

  • Families facing evictions

  • Divorce and child custody

  • Child and spousal support

  • Family relocation

6. PGW Customer Assistance Referral Evaluation Program (CARES)

Philadelphia Gas Works, the region’s main gas provider, offers financial assistance to struggling families through its CARES program. This program issues payment assistance for residential customers who are in difficult situations, such as medical emergencies, family crises, or loss of employment. Families who are struggling to pay their PGW bill can learn if they qualify by contacting PGW at (215)235-1000.

Budget Billing is another PGW service designed to help individuals and families pay their gas bills. This service helps customers who see their utility bills increase in the winter. Qualifying families can have their yearly gas bill estimated and divided into 12 equal payments. To qualify, the PGW account must be in good standing.

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