New Pittsburgh homeless shelter to deal with each grownup and their pet to open in 2022

Community leaders and business officials gathered in Uptown Thursday to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for a new facility for the homeless. Officials say the new housing near the city courthouse along Second Avenue will be the first of its kind in Allegheny County. The facility will be barrier-free, which means that entry requirements are minimal.

“This is not a resource based on a specific time, day, set of conditions, you know? Do you use drugs? That’s OK. You can come in anyway. Are you a person with mental health problems? That’s OK. You can still come in, ”said Laura Drogowski, director of the municipal health and safety bureau for the community.

Another special feature: pets are allowed.

“One of the big barriers to people using services is that they have pets. And in most places pets are not allowed in shelters, ”said Linda Metropulos, chairman of the board of the Second Avenue Commons. Second Avenue Commons is a non-profit organization that was formed to oversee the day-to-day operations of the shelter.

The 42,000-square-foot, five-story facility will accommodate adults, their pets, and their belongings year-round. Accommodation with 95 beds and 45 units of single-family houses will be obtained. A day program will connect people to medical care, food, shower, mail, and other necessities. Its all-round services will aim to address issues such as substance abuse and unemployment.

Kiley Koscinski

Officials at the groundbreaking ceremony in Uptown on Thursday, June 10, 2021.

The project, first announced last August, is a collaboration between city and county officials, PNC, Highmark Health and UPMC. The $ 21 million project was supported by contributions of $ 10 million from the PNC Foundation, $ 6.75 million from Highmark and Allegheny Health Network, and $ 6.75 million in kind from UPMC. Grants from the Hillman Foundation, Heinz Endowments, the RK Mellon Foundation, and the Pittsburgh Foundation were also part of the fundraising.

The property at 700 Second Avenue was donated by the City of Pittsburgh and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Mayor Bill Peduto said the site is within walking distance of many vendors that can provide food, clothing and other services needed by the homeless. “It had to be somewhere in this area where mobility wouldn’t be an issue for the rest of the services needed,” he said.

UPMC will operate a medical and behavioral clinic at the facility. The clinic will provide medical exams, emergency treatments, substance use assessments, behavioral health services, and bridging prescriptions to help patients avoid medication disorders.

The facility can also reduce the burden on currently available resources for homeless people in the area. Programs and services have faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic and an increasing number of people are facing housing insecurity.

According to Allegheny County’s point-in-time census, 887 people were left homeless in 2020. The number rose 113 more people affected by homelessness than in 2019. Black people made up a disproportionately large percentage of the homeless population in 2020, 55%, compared to their share of the total Allegheny County’s population, approximately 13%.

The county also found that more people, at the time of the 163 count, were living on the streets, in places not intended for living. The report notes that the increase from 2019 numbers could be due to milder weather and better customer acquisition.

Second Avenue Commons will continue to receive funding and programs from the county. Officials are currently looking for a permanent service provider.

Construction company PJ Dick will oversee construction of the facility, which is expected to be completed next summer.

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