homelessness

Honoring Pittsburgh's Homeless Who Died in 2014

Dec 19, 2014
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Under the overpass at Fort Pitt Boulevard and Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh is a wall that holds 132 bronze plaques. Six more plaques will be added Sunday to remember the six homeless Pittsburghers known to have died while living in the streets in 2014.

The 17th annual candlelight memorial service will be held there Sunday evening at 7 o’clock..

“It’s to call attention to the tragedy of homelessness,” says Stephanie Chiappini, program manager of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s Operation Safety Net, which  hosts the vigil each year.

More than 60 percent of Allegheny County’s impoverished residents live in suburban neighborhoods, according to a 2013 report by the Brookings Institution, and veterans make up about 33 percent of Pittsburgh’s homeless population.

Those are just two of the reasons why the United Way of Allegheny County announced Wednesday that the nonprofit will expand several programs over the next three years to improve the quality of life for struggling families, women and veterans in the region.

Jess Lasky

With the slush, snow, salt, and ice, good shoes are a must for the winter, but for the homeless good shoes are not always easy to come by because often the donated ones are the wrong size or worn out.

That is why Our Heart to Your Soles spent Monday properly fitting brand new shoes to the needy right before the winter hits at its annual give away event.

They gave away about 400 pairs of shoes and anti-bacterial socks to anyone who needed them.

There are 1,500 homeless veterans in Pennsylvania at any given time, according to Senator Vince Hughes (D – Philadelphia).

That’s why he and other Democratic members of the Pennsylvania  Senate Appropriations Committee and representatives of various veterans groups are planning to meet Friday in Pittsburgh to discuss a bill that could help.

The legislation calls for a preference for homeless veterans, then to disabled veterans and then to families of deceased veterans for public housing.

Pennsylvania's Cities Confront Homelessness

Aug 29, 2014
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

You'd never know it from the road, but in the woods in Allentown, there's a small monument to just how resourceful people can be, when they have to be.

Weeds and wildflowers obscure the path leading to Davina Delor's shelter. She built it herself after landing here in April - her fourth campsite since 2010.

That's when Delor, 42, lost her job, quickly followed by her apartment and car.

"I'm still looking for work. I get little odd jobs here and there, but nothing that pays. Nothing that will get you an apartment or anything like that," Delor says.

Homelessness among veterans has increased in Pennsylvania by 46.2 percent since 2009 according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. To combat this growing number, a bill was just passed unanimously by the state Senate which would give veterans preferential treatment for public housing.

Dr. Jim Withers: Bringing Healthcare to the Streets

Feb 5, 2014
Pittsburgh Mercy Health System

There is a doctor in Pittsburgh that still makes house calls, to a certain extent. For more than 20 years Dr. Jim Withers’s house calls have brought healthcare to the homeless.  What began as a nightly service in 1992 has become the non-profit, Operation Safety Net.

"I was just frustrated with the gap between how healthcare looks at people and how much each person's own reality is unique to them," says Withers.

Some state lawmakers are pushing for a study of homelessness in the commonwealth in order to get a better understanding of what advocates say is a growing problem.

The effort would look at the occurrence of homelessness, and its effects and trends in Pennsylvania.    

Dale Lanigan, who helps coordinate volunteers at an emergency overnight men’s shelter in Harrisburg, says it would answer important questions.

Annual Candlelight Vigil to Remember Homeless Deaths

Dec 17, 2013

As a part of National Homeless Persons Memorial Day, a Pittsburgh nonprofit is hosting a candlelight vigil to remember those who have died homeless in 2013.

Operation Safety Net, a program by Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, will host the vigil under the bridge that connects Grant Street to Fort Pitt Boulevard in downtown on Saturday, Dec. 21, the longest night of the year.

Exploring the Wider Impact of LGBT Homelessness in Pittsburgh

Dec 12, 2013
scribbletaylor / flickr

Homelessness among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people is more prevalent than any other statistical group in America.

Forty percent of homeless youth in America identify as LGBT. The same statistic applies to the city of Pittsburgh.

Lyndsey Sickler, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh, and Nayck B. Feliz, associate director of Project SILK, work firsthand with young LGBT Pittsburghers who experience homelessness.

Feliz said this high homeless population has negative societal ramifications for the Pittsburgh region. 

The Challenges Of Suburban Homelessness and Education

Nov 21, 2013
Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA


Guests include: Elizabeth Kneebone, Fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of Confronting Suburban Poverty, Chuck Keenan, administrator in Allegheny County's Bureau of Homeless Services, Kyoko Henson, a home and school visitor for the Penn Hills School District, Joe Lagana, founder and CEO of the Homeless Children's Education Fund, and homeless student Kevin Lee, winner of a national scholarship, with his mother Tamara Williams

There are nearly 20,000 homeless school age children in Pennsylvania and that’s a small portion of the 1.2 million across the country.

Local and national experts gathered in Pittsburgh on Friday for the fourth annual Homeless Education Network Summit to discuss an issue of rising concern: suburban poverty, homelessness and the challenge of education.

Since 2000, the number of poor people living in the suburbs grew by 64 percent. And today, about 16.4 million poor people are living in suburbs, compared to 13.4 million in the cities.

Allegheny County is no different.

In the Pittsburgh region alone, the suburban poverty rate increased 15.7 percent between 2000 and 2011; while the city saw a 6.3 percent increase.

With the heat reaching 90 degrees all this week, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have been opening and extending the hours of cooling centers for the elderly — but what about the homeless?

Dr. Jim Withers, medical director and founder of Operation Safety Net, said the homeless, especially those who are elderly, are at risk during the heat.

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.