County receives grant to combat homelessness

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Allegheny County can continue its full-court press to combat homelessness with the help of a $4.7 million federal grant.

The county's Department of Human Services will oversee distribution of the grant money, which will help finance 28 separate programs offered through 19 different agencies.

"The Continuum of Care grant renewal brings us closer to achieving the goals of our 10-year plan to end homelessness in Allegheny County," county Executive Dan Onorato said in a statement Thursday.

The county's decade-long effort began in 2005. It has received annual support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. County statistics indicate that in January almost 2,500 people were receiving services related to homelessness.

The kinds of programs and services aided by the grant range from transitional housing support to permanent rent subsidies for the chronically homeless, said Mike Lindsay, housing program administrator for the county's Department of Human Services.

The organizations with which the county has partnerships include the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches, Bethlehem Haven, Goodwill Industries, North Hills Affordable Housing and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

Working with a variety of service providers allows the county to make use of their expertise, Mr. Lindsay said.

People become homeless for a variety of reasons that include mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence. "We go to the agencies that have the experience in dealing with these kinds of situations," he said.

The county's Human Services Department will continue to oversee spending on the anti-homelessness efforts and make site visits to participating agencies to check on how services are being provided.

"Our agencies and staff should be commended for their great work in developing and maintaining a strong system of care to assist homeless individuals and families achieve stable housing," department director Marc Cherna said in a statement.

The county also has applied for about $8 million in federal funding for 11 new homelessness-related projects, Mr. Lindsay said. HUD will announce whether it will fund those efforts this spring.

Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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