Allen Lane was born in 1965, and grew up on Murtland Street in Homewood, just down the road from Westinghouse High School. Back then, more than 30,000 people lived in the single square mile that comprises Homewood.
Lane recalled a vibrant, prosperous neighborhood in his youth.
"There were businesses in Homewood, so you didn’t have to walk too far from your job," Lane said. "There was employment in Homewood."
Things have changed since then. According to the 2010 census, there were only around 6,500 people living in the neighborhood, nearly half of whom are below the poverty level.
Now, Lane is working to improve the community as the sustainability manager for the Homewood Children’s Village, or HCV. He said he meets with anywhere from 10 to 30 residents a day, hooking them up with the free services offered by HCV and partner organizations.
Lane manages HCV’s “Baby Promise” program, which helps teach parents how to care for young children. He said a quality childhood made all the difference for him.
"The most joy I had as a kid was attending Westinghouse High School, based on the tradition of it, the family,” he said. “It wasn’t just going to school -- it was going to be with family, and learning from family, and being active with family. That’s what Homewood is -- Homewood’s family.”
Eventually Lane went off to college, a student athlete, but never finished. Twenty years later, he found his way back to school.
"Along the way, I became a single parent, so I raised my son myself,” he said. “And my son and I were actually in college together. He’s finishing up now.”
Lane said the HVC helps kids from “cradle to career.” In addition to its early childhood program, HCV offers mentoring, academic support, job training, leadership classes and more.
Lane, who also helps adults find job placement, said he’s encouraged by the success stories at HCV.
"A young man who was 20 years old that the time, whose goal was to return to school and get a degree in architectural engineering, decided, ‘OK, let me get this HHPP program a shot.’ He was ready to quit the first couple weeks in, and he stuck it out," Lane recalled. "That young man is now making $23.50 an hour, part of the carpenters’ union, and found a way to get to college without getting himself in debt.”
Lane said that man now “pays it forward” by mentoring kids at HCV, too.
Lane said he’s happy to be part of an organization that’s helping make a difference in Homewood.
“Whenever somebody asks where I’m from, I don’t say, ‘Pittsburgh.’ I say, ‘Homewood,’" Lane said. "Homewood is home, no matter where I go.”