By Pat Loeb

by Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia shelters for homeless families are full at a time of year when demand is surging because of the start of the school year.

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It’s a yearly problem with no apparent short-term solution.

Homeless Services director Liz Hersh calls it “the August phenomenon.”

“Moms come in because they want to get their children settled before school starts. They want to get an address, which just breaks my heart because what they’re trying to do is have a better life for their children, and they’re doing the only thing they can with the resources they have,” said Hersh.

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And Hersh, in turn, does the only thing she can with the resources she has: ask, “do you have nowhere else to go?”

Hersh says with family shelters full, only extreme cases, such as domestic abuse, get priority. Otherwise, they’re encouraged to squeeze in with friends, family, or rooms where perhaps they’re not on a lease.

Hersh says that’s healthier in the long run, because research shows children who’ve been in the shelter system do poorly physically and mentally.

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She says the real problem is not emergency shelter but affordable housing. And the city is studying ways to get more families permanently housed.