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McKeesport home gives girls place to bloom

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik on Wednesday said a McKeesport home renovated for at-risk girls and women should be a place of peace and nurturing.

"Peace be with this house and all who live here and all who will live here," he said during a dedication ceremony for the Auberle home on Versailles Avenue.

More than 140 people attended the ceremony and toured the home, including Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, family court Judge Kim Clark, community members and Auberle staff, board members and clients.

Headquartered on Hartman Street in McKeesport, Auberle is a 60-year-old Catholic faith-based organization that provides social services to more than 2,100 at-risk children and families in eight counties.

Auberle bought the 8,000-square-foot building on Versailles Avenue from the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh for $25,000 in December, Auberle spokeswoman Annie Schultheis said.

It will house 22 beds for girls and women in two residential programs: Girls Adjusting to Treatment and Education, or GATE, which is being relocated from the main campus; and Bloom, which begins in April.

Niasha Burnett, 17, has been an Auberle resident for nine months, and will live in the new building, she said.

"This is a great program. ... They give you enough structure and guidance where you're not overwhelmed," the high school junior said.

Bloom was created in response to a steep rise in female juvenile delinquency, which is often linked to a history of physical and sexual abuse, Auberle officials said.

It will provide residents with educational support, workforce training, substance abuse treatment and social skills development.

"Without their commitment to this program and their commitment to themselves, it doesn't work," Auberle Chief Executive Officer John Lydon said.

The renovations include space for recreational use, group therapy, laundry facilities, a learning center, a kitchen with commercial-grade appliances and eight dorm-like bedrooms. The $900,000 project was paid for with donations from four foundations, Schultheis said.

The building formerly housed the St. Pius V rectory. An adjacent church, which has been torn down, closed in August 2010, shortly before the parish officially merged with two other parishes to form Corpus Christi Parish, according to the diocese.

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