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 DHS News November 2013     


Shelter, Food Available for Older Adults, Homeless During Severe Weather

The Department of Human Services is once again prepared to assist vulnerable residents during severe winter weather.  From emergency shelter to food to program referrals, DHS offices extend assistance when weather threatens the health and safety of people in need.

With Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s Operation Safety Net, DHS’s Office of Community Services will again operate the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter at Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield St., Downtown, providing temporary overnight housing, a hot meal, social services and medical care when temperatures drop to 25 degrees or below or the National Weather Service predicts dangerous weather.

The shelter is open to people who ordinarily do not use other shelters in severe weather and will operate through March 14, 2014 A recorded message at 412.779.1329 indicates whether it is open on a given day. Operation Safety Net offers case management at the shelter to link people to services, benefits and permanent housing.

Additionally, the DHS Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is able to provide emergency provisions to assist older adults on days when conditions make it impossible to get to a grocery store or have a meal delivered.  

AAA food provider, Nutrition Inc., assembles both Shelf-Stable Meal Packs and Emergency Weather Food Boxes, which are distributed to AAA’s Focal Point Senior Centers, Home-delivered meal providers and Care Management and Protective Services personnel.  Shelf-Stable Meals consist of a protein (can of chili or chicken and noodles, for example); a packet of hot chocolate, crackers, a 4-ounce can of fruit, juice and a wipe, said Marian Matik, Administration Officer  for the AAA.

Senior Centers and home-delivered meal providers have requested 2,400 of the meals, which can be distributed to center participants who might show up on a day when weather would seem prohibitive or given to homebound participants in anticipation of poor weather conditions.

“The Shelf Stable Meals allow sites to be proactive and alleviate consumer concerns”, Marian said.

Emergency Weather Boxes are more substantial and are distributed primarily to AAA’s home-delivered meal providers.  The boxes include food – examples are small cans of fruit, cereal, bottled water, peanut butter and crackers and two shelf-stable, microwaveable meals– but also have toilet paper, hand sanitizer, socks with nonskid soles and a flashlight and batteries.  Emergency Weather Boxes are designed to support an older adult for two to three days in the event services are interrupted because of an emergency.  About 1,250 Snowy Weather Boxes will be assembled by Nutrition Inc. staffers for distribution this year

Care Management and Protective Services agencies also receive a supply of Emergency Weather Boxes to distribute as needed. Each year the AAA receives many thank you notes from older adults expressing the sense of comfort they feel knowing someone is looking out for them.  Many say the box is an early Christmas present, Marian said.

In addition to the emergency supplies, providers of care management and home-delivered meal services also call consumers and conduct a personal welfare check: ‘How are you? Do you need us to come? Do you want us to call someone else?’

Seniors and those who have a disability needing assistance to help with utility bills, home weatherization, food and housing or any other need amplified by the impact of winter weather can also call The Allegheny Link, 866-730-2368. The service assists those populations in finding and connecting with resources on a broad variety of subjects.

The DHS/AAA also operates the Senior Line 412-350-5460 or 800-344-4319 to answer questions. For email inquiries, send to seniorline@alleghenycounty.us. Tips on recognizing hypothermia, preparing for winter weather and locating utility assistance can be found on the DHS website.



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