Pittsburgh leaders looking at ways to address homelessness

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh city leaders want to put up heated tents with access to showers and bathrooms on prime real estate as a way to address issues with homelessness.

Despite moves to close and shut down encampments, tents still fill the city embankments and the shelters overflow.

“The biggest struggle is staying warm with our feet and hands and with the rain we are just trying to stay dry and warm together,” said Mattie Chambers who’s homeless.

As temperatures drop and hundreds are still out on the streets, city council is pitching a new temporary solution.

“Putting folks together with warming tent, indoor, outdoor facilities, showers, restrooms we will bring to them, and services can come to their aid,” said Anthony Coghill with Pittsburgh City Council.

That proposed tiny tent city comes from a desire to help people feel safe and it will start off as a pilot program with just 25 tents, and a cost of $50,000 split between the county and city. But there are still a lot of questions on who staffs the communities, who gets first dibs on a tent, what will the safety plan look like?

“We can work out whether these needs to be better sites or where the next site is or if we need more sites but right now we need to get started,” said Deb Gross with Pittsburgh City Council.

So Monday morning, City Council took that first step by amending zoning to allow for a temporary living community, but as for where it will be that’s up in the air.

“We are looking along the rivers, and we need to be close to town and the services that are provided downtown so it’s not very far from wherever their encampment is so we haven’t identified a permanent spot yet that will be the first step,” Coghill said.

But this is not the long-term solution.

“This is not a permanent plan by any means it’s a stopgap so people can survive,” Coghill said.

City Council is still pushing for approval from the Mayor’s Office and partners for funding to create one of the three transitional housing ideas presented this spring which includes tiny home developments. It’s that housing that the homeless told Channel 11 is desperately needed.

“They are definitely trying to help us it’s just a lot of us are in waiting, just wait the long haul for section 8 or wherever these programs are, they definitely help, it’s just a whole process,” Chambers said.

The Mayor’s Office said it is currently reviewing the legislation and looks forward to hearing more from the Planning Commission and Public.

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