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DHS News July 2013    

Allegheny County Meets Ten-Year Homelessness Plan 

In 2005, a partnership led by the then-Allegheny County Homeless Alliance and including Allegheny County, the cities of Pittsburgh and McKeesport, and the municipality of Penn Hills, implemented a ten-year plan to end homelessness in Allegheny County. At its meeting on July 18, 2013, the Homeless Alliance Advisory Board (a committee that had grown out of this plan) officially declared all the goals of that ten-year plan met—two years early!

At the board meeting, Chuck Keenan, Administrator in the DHS Bureau of Homeless Services, gave a run-down of the goals of the plan and some of the actions taken to achieve each. These included:

  • The reduction of the number of homeless entering the system. Several programs were introduced to aid in reduction, including the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program and Emergency Solution Grants. Also, several rental assistance programs were also developed.
  • An increase in the number of affordable housing units. More than 1130 units were added via nationally awarded Continuum of Care Supportive Housing funding, and other sources. Additionally, more than 280 units were retained for “at-risk” homeless.
  • The development of an approach to end chronic homelessness. Steps that were taken include the creation of an Engagement Network, and the opening of the re:solve Crisis Network.
  • An improvement in access to housing and services. A database of affordable housing was created, as was a Community Wellness Program.
  • The co-location of homeless services in regional centers. Informational learning centers were added to shelters and transitional housing facilities throughout the region. Also, available resources and vacancy information are now disseminated via email and the web.
  • The development of a public awareness and education campaign. Homeless rallies and sleep-ins were organized, and an annual memorial service was created to recognize homeless individuals who have passed away during the year.
  • The establishment of a central repository for financial contributions. A Continuum of Care Supportive Service Fund was established with contributions from five foundations to provide matching donations to agencies seeking federal funding.
  • An enhanced advocacy for comprehensive health and behavioral health services. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded several grants to assist with drug and alcohol efforts. In addition, Shelter Plus Care programs were developed to assist individuals with behavioral health issues.

After the plan review, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald offered up a congratulatory message to the audience of 70+ board members and providers present for the meeting.

The board now begins the challenging task of creating a new ten year plan. In his presentation, Chuck briefly acknowledged some of the difficulties they face, including reduced funding, long waiting lists for affordable housing, and continuing partnerships with equally-strapped service providers. Given the energy and ambition of those at the meeting, and the early success in fulfilling the first plan, it’s hard not to think those are difficulties that will be overcome.

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