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Federal grant supports Allegheny County services for homeless

| Friday, April 11, 2014, 9:43 a.m.

A $14.3 million federal grant to reduce homelessness in Allegheny County will continue to support programs such as Action Housing's Homeless Youth Transition Program, its executive director said on Friday.

About 2,000 people were considered homeless in Allegheny County during a point-in-time count in 2013. The youth transition program provides subsidized housing and programs to youths who aged out of foster care programs, generally upon turning 18, said Larry Swanson, executive director of the Downtown nonprofit.

Case managers help program participants with employment, and those in the program gradually pay more rent as their wages increase until they transition into their own apartments.

“There are multiple funding sources, but the core funding comes from this grant,” Swanson said.

The money, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said, will allow the county's Department of Human Services to continue to fund 71 projects for those confronting complex housing issues. DHS will administer the grant for 30 agencies, and provide fiscal and operational oversight and monitoring through regular site visits.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the money through the agency's Continuum of Care Program. The agency awarded more than $82 million to similar programs throughout Pennsylvania.

Human Services Director Marc Cherna said the money “allows us to continue to grow our system of care while assisting more families and individuals.”

Grant recipients include programs such as the Northside Common Ministries Permanent Housing Program, receiving $117,417; the YWCA WISH program, receiving $278,471; and the Goodwill HARBOR project, receiving $375,570, according to the county.

Goodwill's HARBOR project serves recently released inmates for up to 24 months. Program participants and case managers develop service plans with goals of stable employment and housing.

“It's really a new population and a new way to serve people,” Goodwill spokesman David Tobiczyk said of the four-year-old program.

Part of the local funding will go toward Auberle's Movin' On program in Duquesne, which provides transitional services for homeless men ages 18 to 24. One requirement of those enrolled is to save 50 percent of income they earn during their stay, said Arnisha Keyes, case manager and team leader.

“It helps with their permanent housing goals,” Keyes said. “They do not have to pay an occupancy fee. Normally, that could be up to 30 percent to the program.”

In East Liberty, East End Cooperative Ministries runs three programs out of 37 units for as many as 92 people. Its FAITH House program for families in which one person — generally a caregiver — has a physical or mental disability, helps the participants maintain housing stability with their children and achieve greater self-sufficiency, Executive Director Myrna Zelenitz said.

“I think as a community, with HUD money and other funding, we've worked really hard to keep people off the street,” Zelenitz said.

Staff writer Patrick Cloonan contributed. Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

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