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Light Of Life To Break Ground On New North Side Facility

Courtesy of the Light of Life Rescue Mission
A rendering of the new home for Pittsburgh's Light of Life Rescue Mission on the North Side.

On today’s program: New leadership at Light of Life Rescue Mission wants to increase outreach efforts; why the Three Rivers Regatta was canceled; barring court intervention, Pennsylvania's general cash assistance program ends tonight; and a look back at small victories for Pittsburgh women and minorities 50 years ago.

Light of Life to renew focus on outreach and women

The North Side's Light of Life Rescue Mission named Jerrell Gilliam, a longtime volunteer and recent director of programs, as their new executive director in June. Gilliam, whose predecessor Craig Schweiger was promoted to CEO, has been involved with the organization since his childhood, and says he’s always felt a call to help those in need. 

“Going to Light of Life, unlike other places, one of the things I noticed was that the staff there, they have light in their eyes,” says Gilliam. “And when they meet people, the very first thing is they connect with individuals. They give them value and dignity.” 

The mission breaks ground Monday on a new building at Madison Avenue and East Lacock Street, while also moving its headquarters to Ridge Avenue. Gilliam says the expansion will provide more space for the shelter and add resources for new programs, including one for single mothers. 

“Every day—certainly every week—there are homeless women who are looking for a place to come,” he says. “We are desperately in need for beds tonight in Pittsburgh, so we’re going to be able to add that to our facility there, so we’ll actually be able to take women off the street.”

Gilliam says that in recent years, Light of Life has focused on outreach into the community instead of waiting for Pittsburghers in need to come directly to them. He says the goal is to offer compassion to those who often feel trapped in shame. 

This year, organizers say, you don't gotta Regatta
(13:46  17:40)

One of Pittsburgh's marquee summer events has been canceled after officials say required permits and insurance weren't secured by the planning organization. The EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta has been organized by LionHeart Event Group since 2017. 90.5 WESA's Kathleen J. Davis reports that several vendors hadn't received payment, including two years worth of receipts to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. A probe has been launched into LionHeart, according to Regatta board member and solicitor Charles Scholz, though law enforcement is not involved at this time.

The Three Rivers Regatta has been held annually since 1978. The river festival has hosted boat races, water sports and the Red Bull Flugtag. 

What happens if PA's general assistance disappears? 
(17:43  29:07)

At the end of June, the Pennsylvania legislature voted to a General Assistance program that provides small cash payments to low-income Pennsylvanians had not yet qualified for other benefits. The program, which provided monthly allotments of up to $205 per family, helped cover non-food items like hygiene or cleaning products. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Kate Giammarise says it's unclear whether the courts will intercede or if a new program could take its place.

Historic protests changed policies and changed minds 
(29:08  39:40)

Fifty years ago, controvery surrounding gender-based job ads and a lack of racial diversity on construction sites lead to historic victories for women and minorities in Pittsburgh, historian Mark Houser says.

In the cover story for this month's Pittsburgh Magazine, Houser writes that the Pittsburgh Press lost a legal battle in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969 that ultimately mandated editors nationwide stop separating job ads by gender. The same year, a construction boom hit Pittsburgh, and with it, hundreds of construction jobs, but qualified black applicants weren't given a fair shot at employment until then-Mayor Joe Barr demanded negotations, resulting in 1,250 men joining the union. 

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
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