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Allegheny County Develops More Programs To Support Homeless Youths

Seth Perlman
Allegheny County has identified nearly a thousand young adults who are housing insecure or homeless. With a $3.5 million federal grant, the Department of Human Services hopes to combat this trend.

On today's program: The Allegheny County Department of Human Services is beefing up existing programs and rolling out new ones thanks to a federal grant that will combat homelessness and housing insecurity among young adults; Despite the halting of film and television work last year due to the pandemic, the Pittsburgh Film Office is expecting production to ramp up in the city; and discovery of a fossilized dinosaur sitting on its nest brings insights into oviraptorid behavior.

Allegheny County takes on youth homelessness
(0:00 - 7:05) 

In 2019, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services identified nearly a thousand young adults who were living on the street, in shelters, or were identified as being at imminent risk of homelessness. Now, the department says it’s expanding its housing and support services for young adults ages 18 through 24 who are experiencing housing insecurity. 

“We know that for some people, the causes of homelessness can be really varied and complex.” says Laura Saulle, the department’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program manager. “That means the folks who are working with young households need to be really good at engaging, understanding what’s been going on in their lives, and then helping them connect to whatever resources are going to be most effective at not only solving the immediate housing crisis but helping with long-term stability.” 

Allegheny County received a $3.5 million grant from the Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program. It’s one of 24 counties nationwide awarded such grants.

The department organized a roundtable of formerly homeless young adults and other service providers to discuss ideas and projects for the HUD funding. Saulle made clear that Allegheny County is on the right track. 

“One of the big things that we took away was we actually do have a really, resource-rich community, and we have a number of initiatives that are working really well,” says Saulle. “We just didn’t have enough to meet the demand.”

Saulle says the department is also building  cultural competency into its programs, as people of color and LGBTQ+ youth are at higher risk of experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. 

Some programs funded by the HUD grant are already running, like Rapid Re-housing, which houses young adults and provides social services. Other programs, like one that will recruit “host homes” is still in the works and actively recruiting volunteers to host young adults experiencing homelessness.

Pittsburgh Film Office is optimistic about this year’s film production
(7:13 - 13:03 ) 

Late last year, two feature films with strong ties to the Pittsburgh region debuted on streaming services: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” on Netflix, based on the August Wilson play; and “Happiest Season,” on Hulu, a romantic comedy based in the city . 

Unfortunately because of the pandemic, almost all films were watched from home, instead of in theaters. 

With fewer theaters open and available for patrons, how is the city’s slice of film industry production faring? Production halted last year due to the pandemic, but is ramping up already, according to Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office

She says the office is typically managing five productions at once in the city. Right now, there’s three.

“Our largest client currently is Netflix. They’ve been able to get people back to work safely,” says Keezer. The company is already filming a series called “Archive 81,” and will soon start working on another show in February. Keezer says Showtime is also coming to Allegheny and Fayette Counties to film the show “Rust” starring Jeff Daniels.

“The industry is very optimistic, especially with the vaccines on the horizon for the bulk of the population, that they’re gonna be up and running and get everybody back to work quickly,” says Keezer.  She says the film industry employs 15,000 people statewide. 

Keezer says it is sad when films based and produced in the city lose the opportunity to be celebrated, publicly. Especially, she says, like “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” which has generated buzz about it’s award-winning potential.

“On the other hand, it was kind of fun because it opened up to a lot more people being able to see if from the comfort of their home, and it seemed to get a lot of attention that way too,” says Keezer.

A new dinosaur fossil reveals much about the behavior of oviraptorids
(13:14 - 18:00 ) 

A multinational team of researchers has announced the discovery of a dinosaur preserved sitting atop a nest of its own eggs that include fossilized embryos inside. The scientific paper was recently published in the journal “Science Bulletin.” 

An oviraptorosaur broods its nest of blue-green eggs alongside its mate in this illustration.


The research team includes Matt Lamanna, the interim director and  associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Lamanna says the discovery of this 70 million-year-old dinosaur is extremely rare. 

“The unique thing about our discovery is that it’s the first time that we’ve got a dinosaur fossilized atop its own nest, and the nest definitely contains embryos.”

The dinosaur, an oviraptorid, would be a distant relative of the more well-known velociraptor, says Lamanna. 

“Think something like the head of a chicken with the body of a velociraptor and you’d be in a pretty decent ballpark,” Lamanna says, laughing. 

The discovery of the fossil from the Jiangxi Province of southern China also provides insights into how oviraptorids may have tended their nests, since embryos in seven of the 24 found fossilized eggs were in various, but late stages of development. It also suggests that modern birds inherited brooding behavior from dinosaur ancestors who did so millions of years ago.

“This particular fossil is certainly one of the most informative fossils that I’ve ever worked on in my life.”

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.

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.
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Isabelle is a student at George Washington University studying Political Communication. She loves all things Pittsburgh sports and serves as a sports anchor for GW-TV. In her free time, she enjoys museum hopping and walking her dog, Stevie.
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