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The Heinz Endowments awards a $1 million grant to assist Allegheny County’s unhoused population

PITTSBURGH, June 6, 2024 – The Heinz Endowments announced today that its Board of Directors has approved a $1 million grant to the Allegheny County Department of Human Services to support individuals without permanent housing. The grant will fund more beds for those entering shelters, especially during the winter when the need increases. The money also will support resources to help individuals exit shelters and transition to more permanent housing, which includes funding for Allegheny County’s new 500 in 500 housing initiative.

“Everyone deserves a stable, sustaining home,” said Endowments President Chris DeCardy. “We are pleased to support leaders across the community working to remove the most difficult roadblocks on that journey for people without housing stability.”

According to Allegheny County human services, the system is experiencing an influx of first-time unhoused individuals who face relatively low barriers to being re-housed except for the lack of affordable units. These are people who may be employed but are unable to afford rent deposits for housing close to where they work or near public transportation. The county’s new 500 in 500 initiative aims to create 500 homes in the next 500 days for the unhoused population. The program was announced at a media briefing today.

If zoning is approved, the grant would also help support a program on the site of the old Vincentian de Marillac facility in Stanton Heights. Bridge, Employment and Training (BET) would accommodate 50 to 56 individuals at any given time, providing shelter for up to six months. As part of the proposed project, staff would work with participants to identify nontraditional housing possibilities, low-income public housing options, and private rental or home ownership. Participants would receive training in housing-related skills such as money management and instruction on ways to obtain employment or increase income. Incentives such as gift cards would be used to motivate participants to reach housing and employment goals.

“We believe this program has the potential to be a springboard to stability,” said Carmen Anderson, Vice President of Equity and Learning for the Endowments. "Providing multiple pathways for people to exit shelter and obtain employment is a crucial step in helping them set and achieve goals. Meeting people where they are can often be the difference between someone falling back into instability and someone moving forward with their life."

Allegheny County’s annual “Point in Time” single-day count of individuals staying in shelters or who are both unhoused and unsheltered was taken on January 30 with this year’s count totaling 1,026 people, a 12.3% increase from the number in 2023. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in-person outreach that respects the dignity of individuals experiencing homelessness is widely regarded as a critical first step in connecting them with stable, safe housing.

Recognizing the importance of outreach programs, the county Department of Human Services has partnered with Pittsburgh-based nonprofit Bridge to the Mountains to provide street outreach to connect individuals to resources such as housing, medical care, behavioral health, benefits and employment. Allegheny County staff have increased the Unity Recovery Drop-In Center’s hours of operation at its Bingham Street location on Pittsburgh South Side. The Unity Recovery Center is now open 24 hours, seven days a week to provide a safe place for up to 60 individuals to rest, shower, do laundry, have access to peer services including substance use recovery, and connect to resources and housing navigation. County employees also had been working to expand weekend hours at the Second Avenue Commons Drop-In Center downtown, but a fire extensively damaged the facility Tuesday, according to news reports, and the status of its condition for future use is unclear.

“We are grateful for The Heinz Endowments' continued support to help families and communities across the county” said Erin Dalton, director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. “This grant will help us provide more intensive services to those facing barriers to stable housing and address the challenges preventing independence.”

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Becky Brindle
The Heinz Endowments