11 Investigates Exclusive: Potential landing spots for homeless shelter residents

PITTSBURGH — A downtown Pittsburgh homeless shelter was left charred and partially condemned after a fire last week.

Now, the city and county are grappling with what to do with the more than 100 people who lived there

They’re currently staying at the convention center, but leaders are looking for a better temporary housing solution.

>> Pittsburgh City Council gives update on Second Avenue Commons after major fire

Approximately 80 people have already found new places to live.

11 Investigates has learned that the Allegheny County Department of Human Services along with the Mayor’s Office are looking at a number of potential sites across Allegheny County.

11 Investigates has learned the locations of four sites all in the city that were under consideration.

In an email to 11 Investigates, the Mayor’s office said two of those sites were eliminated but two others are still on the table, including on location that has already divided residents.

11 Investigates has learned that a building on 27th street on the South Side that is currently home to the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community Church is one of the potential landing spots for the residents forced out of the Second Avenue shelter downtown by fire last week.

That location could take up to 50 residents.

An empty building with apartments on the upper floors on 27th Street on the South Side used to house the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community Church.

11 investigates has learned it’s a potential landing spot for up to 50 homeless residents forced out of the Second Avenue shelter by fire last week.

11 Investigates spoke with several neighbors, including a woman who lives just around the corner from the building.

“I am very supportive of finding ways to house and get a good living situation for the homeless,” she said.

>> Nearly 200 people displaced due to fire at Second Avenue Commons

While she’s not opposed to the homeless residents moving in temporarily, she does have some conditions.

“If the city commits to like maintaining the level of community that we have here, then that’s great. I think without that those people, tend to, there’s a lot of drug use, there’s a lot of mental health illness, and that needs to be addressed,” said the woman.

Other neighbors and business owners 11 Investigates spoke with said they don’t want them in the neighborhood.

They said they’re worried about an uptick in crime and drugs.

Pittsburgh City Councilmember Bob Charland, who represents this community, told me by phone he knows they need a place to stay but he too his concerned about putting them in this heavily residential area.

In addition to this building on the South Side, 11 investigates has learned that the West End Senior Center on Wabash Avenue, which has been closed, is also under consideration.

Two other sites, the former Oliver Academy Building owned by Pittsburgh Public Schools on the North Side, and the Ammon Recreation Center in the Hill District were ruled out due to mechanical issues and programming conflicts.

Other residents we spoke with said they understand they need a place to go and they support the moves.

“Providing people with stable housing leads to a lot of positive employment and health outcomes. I think it would be wonderful,” said another South Side resident.

The mayor has signed an emergency declaration in an effort to get the Second Avenue shelter back up and running as quickly as possible.

Wherever they decide to relocate the nearly 100 shelter residents left at the convention center, council member Charland wants to make sure the communities have a say in the process.

“County DHS, in coordination with and assistance from the city, are exploring many options for facilities that might be suitable as temporary shelter locations for the individuals and services that were displaced by the fire at 2nd Avenue Commons. The full list includes facilities across Allegheny County, though the City is only actively assisting in assessing locations within the City. As discussed at today’s Council Meeting, this list includes Hot Metal Bridge Church and the West End Healthy Active Living Center, both of which are currently being evaluated. Oliver Academy and Ammon Rec center were also assessed, but ruled out due to mechanical issues and programming conflicts. We also continue to explore other options and will communicate with the communities surrounding the sites that are determined to be suitable as the process progresses,” said Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak in an emailed statement to 11 Investigate.

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