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Identity & Community

Roadmap To A More 'Welcoming Pittsburgh' Released

After a year of committee meetings, public input sessions, one-one-one interviews and open surveys, a mayoral advisory council has released 47 pages of recommendations to build a “more welcoming Pittsburgh.”

“To be competitive, we need to fill the gaps in our labor force and cultivate the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs that will create jobs for new and native Pittsburghers alike,” Mayor Bill Peduto said.

Data gathered by the 40-person Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council found the city’s net annual international migration of 0.05 percent placed at as the lowest of the nation’s largest 40 cities. The report released Monday shows Pittsburgh’s foreign-born population at 7.4 percent compared to the national average of 12.9 percent.

Peduto said he believes that if Pittsburgh is to be competitive in the future it needs to have a more diverse population.

“When we connect people of all cultures, we set the foundation for a cosmopolitan, prosperous city where residents learn from, welcome and celebrate their neighbors,” Peduto said.

The list of recommendations is explained through three major categories – Welcome neighbor!, Bridge to the city and Prospering together – and further broken down into short-term, mid-range, long-term and ongoing efforts.

Peduto called the plan a “roadmap to foster the potential already in our neighborhoods and to allow Pittsburghers of all backgrounds to come together to build the next chapter in Pittsburgh’s history.”

Drawing inspiration from the White House Task Force on New Americans and the Obama administration’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, the plan calls for efforts like passing a “Welcoming City” ordinance, rehabbing vacant housing stock, launching a municipal ID program and improving refugee services in the city.

Input sessions and surveys conducted found foreign-born and native Pittsburghers share many of the same concerns. Topping the list of challenges for foreign-born residents is the region’s transportation system, finding employment opportunities and making friends. U.S.-born residents want more livable neighborhoods through affordable housing, transportation, greater acceptance of diversity and safety.

In his opening letter contained in the report, Peduto cited Pittsburgh's cultural roots in Bloomfield, Polish Hill, South Side and the Hill District, as well as more recent Latino and Bhutanese population boons in the Hilltop.

Among some of the short-term goals, expected to take six months to a year, are efforts to revitalize Pittsburgh's sister cities network, expand immigrant youth activities and establish “Welcoming Hubs" in community centers throughout the city that would include services such as English as a second language courses, help with navigating the city, connecting immigrants and supporting citizenship efforts. 

Mid-term goals aim to translate city forms and publications, create a city office to house immigrant integration efforts and launch a municipal ID program to fund and issue free photo IDs to all residents, which the Peduto administration said would help immigrants have better access to services. 

The full report can be found on Pittsburgh’s website.

And city employees might have some help running all the new programs it envisions.  A survey conducted as part of the information gathering process found 77 percent of foreign-born residents said they would volunteer two hours a month to support the community and 45 percent of U.S.-born residents said they would volunteer to welcome immigrants.