Allegheny County and Operation Safety Net® Ready the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter for Individuals who are Street Homeless

PITTSBURGH – (November 27, 2012) – The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Community Services and Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s Operation Safety Net® will again operate the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter (SWES) this winter for the safety of people who are street homeless.

Located at the Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield Street, Downtown, the shelter provides temporary, overnight accommodations, professional social services and protection from frigid temperatures to people who typically do not use other existing shelter resources during periods of severe winter weather.

From now through March 15, 2013, the SWES will operate from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. when the temperature drops to 25 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and when dangerous winter weather exists or is predicted by the National Weather Service. As in previous years, additional nights will be added, as needed. Persons served and referring organizations can find out if the SWES is activated on a given evening by calling 412.779.1329. (Please note: the phone line is not staffed; therefore, messages should not be left at this number.)

In addition to providing basic human services and professional case management services, Operation Safety Net coordinates employees and volunteers who staff the shelter and procures all of the necessary supplies — including sleeping bags, linens, winter apparel and food — for persons served. Allegheny County Police provide security each night the shelter is activated.

During the winter of 2011-2012, the SWES operated 31 nights, down from a record 64 nights the previous winter (2010-2011). Last winter, however, was unseasonably mild by meteorological standards. During the 31 nights it was open, the shelter served an average of 65 people each night. Overall, 409 individuals benefited from the shelter’s activation; 43 were age 26 or younger, and 29 were age 64 or older. Fifty of the individuals were women, and 48 of the individuals were veterans.

Operation Safety Net case managers help individuals who come to the shelter access needed services, secure benefits, and find permanent housing. In the past five years, Operation Safety Net has successfully connected more than 850 of the individuals it serves to housing.

The SWES is made possible by funding from DHS and the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System (PMHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the City of Pittsburgh Department of Economic Development, and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Operation Safety Net recognizes and thanks the following community partners and organizations that help make the SWES possible: Bethlehem Haven, Central Baptist Church, Community Human Services, East End Cooperative Ministries, Familylinks, First Step Recovery, Gaudenzia (formerly House of Crossroads), Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, House of Bread, individual donors and volunteers, Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, Light of Life Rescue Mission, Michael’s Place, Mission Vision, Northside Common Ministries, Passavant Memorial Homes, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship, the Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh, Smithfield United Church of Christ, Springboard Kitchens, St. John Capistran Ladies of Charity, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, The Eating Group, VA Pittsburgh Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, and Young Lawyers Group of Pittsburgh.

Monetary donations in support of the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter are welcome. Donations may be made at World Wide Web Icon www.pmhs.org or mailed to Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s Development Office, 101 Bradford Road, Suite 320, Wexford, PA 15090. Please make checks payable to Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and specify that the gift is intended for Operation Safety Net and the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter. To make a donation by telephone, contact Connie Murray, executive director, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System Development, at 724.934.3537.

For more information about the SWES, please contact Stephanie Chiappini, program manager, Operation Safety Net, at 412.246.2980.

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About the Allegheny County Department of Human Services

Allegheny County Department of Human Services is responsible for providing and administering publicly-funded human services to Allegheny County residents. DHS is dedicated to meeting these human services needs, most particularly for the county's most vulnerable populations, through an extensive range of information exchange, prevention, early intervention, case management, crisis intervention and after-care services.

About Operation Safety Net®

Operation Safety Net® is Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s award-winning, innovative medical and social service outreach program for the unsheltered homeless population in Allegheny County. It strives to address the circumstances which undermine the mental and physical health of persons served by creating avenues for people who are homeless to access the medical and social services that are necessary for them to improve their quality of life. Since its founding in 1992, Operation Safety Net has reached approximately 10,000 homeless individuals with more than 68,000 visits where they live – in camps along riverbanks, in alleyways, or beneath bridges and highway overpasses – and has successfully helped more than 850 individuals who were once homeless to find homes of their own. In doing so, Operation Safety Net not only assists with providing health care and affordable housing, but also offers this vulnerable population hope, dignity, and a sense of community. Operation Safety Net is part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and Catholic Health East, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. To learn more or to make a donation in support of its important work in the community, visit World Wide Web Icon www.pmhs.org.

About Pittsburgh Mercy Health System

Pittsburgh Mercy Health System (PMHS), part of Catholic Health East and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, is one of the region’s largest health and social service nonprofits and also one of its largest employers. PMHS includes A Child’s Place at Mercy, McAuley Ministries, Mercy Behavioral Health, Mercy Community Health, Mercy Intellectual Disabilities Services, Mercy Parish Nurse and Health Ministry Program, Operation Safety Net®, and Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center. Together, these PMHS programs and its 1,700 employees serve more than 26,000 individuals annually at more than 60 locations in Southwestern Pennsylvania. To learn more about PMHS or to make a donation in support of its important work in the community, visit World Wide Web Icon www.pmhs.org