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Crafton shelter continues to deal with plight of homeless

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By Charlotte Smith
Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The IHN Second Circle Shelter, 7 Oregon Ave., Crafton, opened in 2007 and immediately doubled the capacity of the shelter program that originated in Washington, Pa., in 1993.

Both sites are operated by the former Interfaith Hospitality Network, now affiliated with and known as Family Promises of Southwestern Pennsylvania, an interdenominational program linking local churches that offer round-the-clock shelter, meals and social services to homeless families in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Family Promises has more than 180 affiliates in 41 states involving 6,000 churches and nearly 136,000 volunteers nationwide.

Local churches that are host congregations include All Saints Polish National Catholic Church and St. John Evangelical Lutheran in Carnegie and Bethany Presbyterian Church in Bridgeville.

Support churches include First Baptist Church in Crafton and First Baptist Church and Zion Lutheran Church in Bridgeville, with additional support or hosting duties coming from churches in Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon, Castle Shannon, McMurray, Pleasant Hills, Upper St. Clair and Washington.

Homeless or displaced families can include husband and wife with or without children, a single parent with children, or a legal guardian or custodial guardian with children. The families are screened, and no current drug and alcohol users are accepted, nor are those with severe mental health issues, a criminal background or single men.

Dinner is provided by volunteers from area churches. During the day, guests are transported back to the Family Center in Crafton. Volunteers from the host congregations also talk and listen to the guests, which enables families to maintain their dignity and regain independence.

The families, through the shelter, can take advantage of personal counseling, assistance in securing training and employment, help with enrolling children in appropriate schools, arranging medical or dental care, and referral information to other programs and agencies. Also offered is life skills training in financial management, homemaking and family relationships.

Services also include assisting families in finding homes, providing home furnishings and distributing donated supplies to help families set up housekeeping.

This past summer, Family Promise partnered with the Homeless Children's Education Fund (HCEF) to provide an exciting eight-week program that gave educational workshops and activities to the children right at the shelter where they lived. Every Friday there was a field trip to places like the National Aviary, Moraine State Park or Idlewild Park, all underwritten by the HCEF and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

Family Promise of Southwestern Pennsylvania is a nonprofit charitable organization and all contributions are tax-deductible. Monetary donations are accepted as well as vehicle donations, “home again” donations of furniture and household goods, and wish list donations of gift cards, paper towels, soap and body wash, shampoo, razors, toothpaste, gently used baking pans, sheets and towels, blankets, children's toys, family DVDs and more. Volunteers always are welcome at the host churches, or to mentor, or provide transportation, childcare, fund development, or to read and help with homework, as well as other assignments as the need arises.

For more details on donating or to volunteer, visit, or call 724-229-1129.

Charlotte Smith is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at 724-693-9441 or

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