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Health Care for the Homeless to relocate

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 1:51 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Health Care for the Homeless is moving its McKeesport services from the Intersection Soup Kitchen along Seventh Avenue to the former YMCA at 523 Sinclair St. later this year. Council approved a conditional use application on Wednesday to have a medical office at the renovated facility.

Health Care for the Homeless, a federally funded program through Primary Care Health Services Inc., will move its McKeesport services to a new location.

Medical services have been offered to the homeless at the Intersection Soup Kitchen along Seventh Avenue for at least the past 12 years.

By the end of this year, new medical and mental health offices for the program will be located at the former YMCA, 523 Sinclair St.

City council unanimously adopted a resolution on Wednesday approving a request from the McKeesport Downtown Housing Association for a conditional use in the R-5 zoning district. The conditional use is to operate a medical office to serve the homeless.

“I think it's a wonderful addition to our downtown area,” council president Darryl Segina said.

The housing association is a local entity governed by Action Housing Inc.

“It's not new for McKeesport. It's just a different venue,” said James DeGrazia, a special projects manager with Action Housing. “It offers them more space, better access to patients, more security, more safety, and a whole lot better facility to work in.”

He said a small room at the Intersection currently is used for the program's health care services.

At the new location, separate offices will be used for health care and mental health services.

Since being awarded $968,221 in tax credits through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency last April and a $10.1 million tax credit investment by PNC later in 2012, Action Housing is in the process of improving its 84 residential units in the former YMCA facility. Those units are for people including those designated as homeless who need a temporary facility as they move to permanent housing.

Expected completion date is set for December.

Health Care for the Homeless director April Arsenault said the housing association asked her organization to come on board with the former YMCA renovation project.

“They realized that they've got this opportunity to have services in house and it would be like a win-win for everybody,” Arsenault said. “Intersection has worked great. The space is a little small, but we make due with what we're given. The hours are restricted to when the soup kitchen's open. So we're restricted to two-hour windows, and we would like to expand the hours for a longer time so we can see more patients. It seemed like a better fit for us just to have a couple more days of availability and a couple extra hours a week, and just kind of more room for growth.”

A tentative Health Care for the Homeless schedule in the new McKeesport office would be four hours each on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The current schedule is two hours on each of those days at the Intersection.

“There will be more patients that are staying there that meet our qualifications so it will just be easier for them to get (medical attention),” Arsenault said. “We'll be more easily accessible.”

Heath Care for the Homeless serviced 5,800 people in more than 20,000 visits throughout all of its sites in the Pittsburgh region last year.

“Depending on the day of the week, our nurses go out to different sites,” Arsenault said. “We're not a medical office. We provide services where the homeless individuals already congregate. We're in soup kitchens, and shelters and transitional housing programs, so that we're on-site for the patients.”

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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