County officials, service providers, and financial sponsors of a low-barrier homeless shelter set to open next month say the facility is intended to address a range of challenges facing the region's growing homeless population.
This year, the number of unhoused people in Allegheny County reached a 12-year high of 284, according to county data as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Stakeholders gathered for a dedication ceremony earlier today said Second Avenue Commons, the result of a collaboration between some of the region’s largest institutions — both corporate and civic — will provide temporary shelter and wraparound services for people in Allegheny County experiencing homelessness. The temporary living quarters will accommodate individual adults or couples and their pets.
The facility will have 95 beds year-round with the possibility of an additional 42 in the winter. Linda Metropulos, the shelter's board president, said during a dedication today it amounts to "so much more than a shelter.”
Five different organizations will operate inside the new facility, Metropulos said: UPMC, Pittsburgh Mercy, Community Kitchen, Second Avenue Commons, Inc., and the county's department of human services.
When it opens in mid-October, the facility will feature a daytime drop-in center where people can hang out, eat, bathe, wash their clothes, charge phones, and take care of other needs as well as a health clinic, a meal plan and commercial kitchen, and ways to get connected to treatment and social services.
Erin Dalton, director of the county's human services department, said that medical, mental, and behavioral health care will be available at the Second Avenue Commons for those who need it.
“We know folks who are living on the street are experiencing lots of health care challenges, whether they be physical health, behavioral health,” said Dalton. “Seventy percent of the folks we expect to come inside into this facility have had an emergency department visit in the past six months, another 60% of them had in their past a mental health inpatient stay.”
Dalton stressed the need for the facility's stakeholders to continue listening to people experiencing homelessness.
“We've got to continue to think and problem solve and be creative so that we earn people's trust to come inside here every day and build their lives,” Dalton said.