Pittsburgh officials working to address homeless encampments

PITTSBURGH — The number of homeless people in the city of Pittsburgh continues to grow, and some of the most visible areas are in the most crowded parts of the city, especially this time of year.

One man, who frequently bikes along the North Shore trails, told Channel 11 he’s noticed a “dramatic uptick this year.”

Pittsburgh Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak says it’s hard to pin down the exact number of people without housing in the city because the population is “fluid,” but he says help is on the way.

“We do think there are credible paths for providing everyone in that community options in the very near future,” Pawlak said.

The challenge facing the city is housing. There just isn’t enough of it.

“Most of the folks who are unhoused in Pittsburgh today are already on a waiting list for housing,” he said.

A new, low-barrier shelter that’s been in the works for years is slated to open in the near future downtown, but it won’t be a total solution.

“More is needed beyond that, and that’s a continuing conversation we’re having with the Allegheny Department of Human Services and others,” Pawlak said.

It also means no immediate solution to encampments in high-traffic areas in the city. You may have seen tents along the North Shore or gatherings along Fort Duquesne Boulevard downtown.

Pawlak called those settlements a concern and says they are taking it seriously.

On Friday, our partners at the Trib reported new fencing at Riverfront Park along Fort Duquesne Boulevard. City officials say that homeless people don’t live there, but referred to the area as a “hangout spot during the day and late hours of the night.”

There are no plans to fence off encampments.

“To ask them to leave those spaces without providing an alternative doesn’t solve the problem. It would simply move those encampments to another location,” Pawlak said.

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