Swissvale officials want to meet with Onorato over housing issue

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Swissvale officials have sent a letter to Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato requesting a town hall meeting on county-funded supportive housing in the borough.

Swissvale council President Darrell Bell said the letter would be sent to Mr. Onorato during a Nov. 7 council meeting, at which several citizens questioned the safety and legality of supportive housing facilities on Hanover Street and Delaware Avenue.

Kevin Evanto, spokesman for Mr. Onorato, said the chief executive received the letter and would respond directly to the borough.

Swissvale officials say Pyramid Healthcare and property management company Lobos Management are in violation of local ordinances because the properties do not have conditional use permits required for group residences.

Pyramid is an addiction, mental health and adolescent behavioral treatment provider that has moved 25 of its patients into Swissvale apartment buildings. Twenty men are at 1901 Hanover St. and five women are at 1935-1937 Delaware Ave.

Officials from Pyramid and the Allegheny County Department of Health and Human Services, which provides funding for supportive housing residents' rent, say the conditional use permits are not necessary because the properties are not group homes.

During public comments, resident Karen Larson asked why Pyramid did not notify the borough's planning commission of its plans before moving in residents. She also suggested that the borough report questionable activity at the properties to the Joint Commission, an independent health-care accreditation organization.

One resident, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, said he has witnessed residents of the Hanover Street facility playing loud music, disturbing the area by standing outside at 2 a.m. and being overly amorous on his "front lawn."

John Ross, director of housing at Pyramid, said he hasn't heard reports of disturbances from neighbors or staff members and wonders why no one has called police to complain about the incidents.

He also said the Lafayette Square Apartment Complex on Hanover has two buildings, one with Pyramid residents, and that the people causing commotion did not come from the building Pyramid uses.

"I know there's not loud music and no guys loitering outside the [Pyramid] apartments," Mr. Ross said. "I can't speak for any other residents."

Mr. Ross said he is disheartened by the community's reaction to Pyramid's presence, and its residents wonder why they are being targeted. He said no Pyramid residents have tested positive for alcohol or drug use during random checks and the community should be more concerned about people in the area who aren't so closely monitored.

"These are just normal, everyday people like them trying to live their lives," Mr. Ross said.

"We haven't had a fight. Our residents aren't using drugs or alcohol. Those are the types of folk I'd be concerned about, those that are abusing drugs and alcohol that are living in the community."

Deborah M. Todd can be reached at 412-263-1652 or .


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