Allegheny County Department of Human Services

Essential Pittsburgh: Some Fresh Ways to Shelter Homeless People

Feb 26, 2015

Jon Potter, the owner of what's said to be Pittsburgh's only hostel, is trying to fund his next big project. A co-operatively owned house called the Pittsburgh Home, it would offer a safe and free place for Pittsburghers in need of shelter. He explains where things stand with the project's development and how a co-operative shelter would work.

 

With regard to his plans for the Pittsburgh Home, Potter explains:

“The shelters are great, but there’s a dignity in having your own home, and that’s what we want to provide. It’s not only dignity, but it’s having an address that you can use to apply for jobs and get a bank account and get a driver’s license. Because actually having a home, I think, is what people need.”


Talking to your baby could be one of the best things a parent can do developmentally, and to help get that idea across Allegheny County the Department of Human Services has launched what it is calling the “Use Your Words” campaign.

The campaign encourages parents to talk to their infant about things that they are doing. For instance “I am cutting up orange carrots” in an expressive manner is the best way to help children develop.

Courtesy Allegheny County Department of Human Services

According to 2010 census data, 7.5 percent of Penn Hills residents live below the federal poverty line. That’s about a third of the rate in Pittsburgh, and a little more than half of the rate in Pennsylvania as a whole.

In McKees Rocks, on the other hand, more than a quarter of residents live below the poverty line.

Based on that data, one might conclude that county services like summer food programs and job training should be concentrated in and around McKees Rocks and not in Penn Hills.

A recent audit from Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner has found that complex procedures and internal deficiencies in the Department of Human Services (DHS) could lead to problems in the facilitation of mental health services in the county.

“I think this audit shows that there are a number of breaks in the process and those breaks could result in residents in need falling through the cracks if they’re not receiving that help that they need in that most critical hour,” Wagner said.

Allegheny County DHS

For the past 17 years, Pittsburgh’s Marc Cherna has served needy children and families throughout the region as the director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.

He recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest foster child foundation. The honor is granted to individuals who improve the welfare of children and provide dedicated service to the public. 

Allegheny County’s child welfare system was considered a “national disgrace” in the early ‘90s, but now it is being held up as a national model.

That’s according to Marc Cherna, director of Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), who is the first person ever awarded the Casey Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Child Welfare Leadership.

The award presented by the Casey Family Programs recognizes someone who has contributed substantially to the field of child welfare.

About one in three Allegheny County Jail inmates who don't receive job training while incarcerated wind up back in the lockup within 12 months. But that rate is cut in half if they participate in the Jail Collaborative's education program.

Now 100 inmates, men and women, will receive technical training toward careers in the energy industry in hopes of further reducing that rate of recidivism.

Allegheny County has an additional $13 million to spend on trying to combat homelessness in the region.  The funds come from a U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Continuum of Care grant. 

The county can use the funds to support housing and service programs including safe havens, transitional housing and permanent housing for persons with disabilities. Most of the money will be used to continue programs already being offered by the county, said Allegheny County Homeless Programs Administrator Chuck Keenan.