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Group that offers transitional housing to homeless will move to Shaler

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:40 p.m.

When Rebecca Reid moved back to Pittsburgh from Arizona in 2005 with her mother and two siblings, she spent more than three months living out of a duffle bag at family members' homes.

When the family heard about a transitional home in Ross for single mothers with children, they decided to move in.

“It was nice just to have my own bed instead of living on an air mattress,” said Reid, 19, a sophomore at University of Pittsburgh. “I can definitely say Hearth had a big impact on how I got here.”

Hearth, a nonprofit group that provides transitional housing for the homeless, plans to continue helping families from a site in Shaler, after being forced to move from the building in Ross last year.

The group held a groundbreaking last week for the facility that will have 20 apartments after crews finish renovating two buildings at the corner of Mount Royal Boulevard and Elfinwild Road.

“I would tell anyone considering it, don't think of it as a shelter; think future. It's not a handout, it's a hand up. Don't think failure; think success,” said Reid's mother, Lori Dean.

The program offers housing, structure and support to single mothers with up to four children housing.

“We focus on economic self-sufficiency. It's a requirement to get an education or go to job training,” Barbara Smith, the organization's president. “We focus on having them develop marketable skills and life skills so they can take care of themselves.”

Dean attended Community College of Allegheny County while at Hearth. She said an illness caused her family's misfortunes when she was in Arizona. Dean said she “lost everything I had — car, home.”

Hearth had to move when its landlord sold the Ross building. Since then, women in the program have lived in private apartments in Scott. Smith said the Shaler buildings should be ready for move-in by summer. Children can attend Shaler school district.

The new facility cost $7.44 million, paid for by $4.7 million in tax credits to offset donations from businesses, a $500,000 state grant, $750,000 from the county and $1.5 million from donations to Hearth.

Neighbors initially expressed apprehension about the facility, Shaler Manager Tim Rodgers said, because a previous transitional living home created problems. But he said township officials checked with Ross and found the Hearth home did not have a significant record of police calls.

“This seems to be a tightly run facility,” Rodgers said.

That's something Dean, 49, emphasized, saying Hearth's tight rules are part of the program. She now lives on her own in Ross, and has a job.

“Hearth is the opposite of everything I had read or seen about shelters,” Dean said. “The program was just fabulous. It was a nonstop support system.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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