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City Council allocates nearly $1.2M in grants for groups serving the homeless and housing insecure

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
A tent encampment along the Allegheny Riverfront.

Pittsburgh City Council unanimously approved awarding nearly $1.2 million in grants to community groups that provide services for those experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. The resolution is the latest piece of an effort by the city to address homelessness that began over the summer.

Auberle, a McKeesport-based human services agency, will receive the largest portion of the funds. The group will be awarded nearly $340,000 for its homeless prevention services and its rapid rehousing program. The group assists with back rent and partners with landlords to connect people to stable, affordable housing.

Eight other groups will receive money from the bill. Pittsburgh Mercy will get $200,000 to support the downtown Bethlehem Haven women’s shelter; and $125,000 each will go toward supporting the East End Cooperative Ministry and Womanspace East shelters.

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The ordinance also awards $140,000 to the Allegheny County Department of Human Services for the agency’s coordinated entry program and its data system used to analyze the issue of homelessness locally.

Here’s the full breakdown of the $1,198,946 legislation:

  • Auberle: $339,946
  • Pittsburgh Mercy Health Systems: $200,000
  • Allegheny County Department of Human Services: $140,000
  • East End Cooperative Ministry: $125,000
  • Womanspace East: $125,000
  • The Salvation Army: $72,000
  • Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania: $67,000
  • Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh: $65,000
  • FamilyLinks: $65,000

The nearly $1.2 million will come from the Emergency Solutions Grant program, a federal program designed to support people and families experiencing housing insecurity or crises. According to Pittsburgh Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak, the city expects to allocate the funds over the next month.
Pawlak said the city prioritized getting funding “to providers that have a documented track record of being able to spend the money effectively, do the compliance work and most importantly provide these critical services to city residents.”

The investment is the latest initiative from the City of Pittsburgh as leaders seek to find ways to address homelessness in the city. The increasing visibility of tent camps over the summer raised concerns among residents and city leaders about whether the city is seeing a rise in homelessness.

City leaders have put a new emphasis on creating a middle ground between emergency shelters and permanent housing. A bill currently under consideration by members would use parcels of land that already have water and sewer connections or existing structures that can be used to serve this purpose.

In August, council approved a study of how to use accessory dwelling and detached units to boost the city’s supply of affordable housing. The effort mirrors the way other cities have used tiny houses to address homelessness.

Another resource the city will lean on is a 45,000-square-foot facility along Second Avenue downtown that will provide emergency shelter, long-term dorm-style apartments and medical services. The city, county and private sector groups behind Second Avenue Commons initially announced the shelter would open in mid-October. As of Tuesday, the facility remains closed.

A spokesperson on behalf of the organizations behind Second Avenue Commons explained the facility is undergoing inspections and that final approvals should be completed in the coming weeks. The group now expects the shelter to open by Nov. 15, the same date Allegheny County’s winter shelters open, though Second Avenue Commons will be year-round.

“We fully expect that the facility will be available and open to adults experiencing homelessness by the November 15 date,” the group said. “Outreach teams from the county, the City of Pittsburgh and our homeless service providers continue to engage with persons who are experiencing homelessness to identify services available to them in anticipation of the opening of Second Avenue Commons.”

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.