Pittsburgh Mercy Health System
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Allegheny County Department of Human Services and Operation Safety Net prepare the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter for the safety of individuals who are street homeless
Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 (Downtown)
The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) and Pittsburgh Mercy Health System's Operation Safety Net® will again operate the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter (SWES) this winter for the safety of people who are street homeless.
Located at the Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield Street, Downtown, the shelter provides temporary, overnight accommodations, professional social services, medical care, and protection from frigid temperatures to people who typically do not use other existing shelter resources during periods of severe winter weather.
The SWES will operate from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. through March 15, 2014, when the temperature drops to 25 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and when dangerous winter weather exists or is predicted by the National Weather Service. As in previous years, additional nights will be added, as needed. Persons served and referring organizations can find out if the SWES is activated on a given evening by calling 412.779.1329. The message is updated by noon each day. This phone line is not staffed; therefore, messages should not be left at this number.
In addition to providing basic human services, Operation Safety Net coordinates clinical staff, volunteers, and case management representatives at the shelter. The case management representatives help individuals who come to the shelter access needed services, secure benefits, and find permanent housing. In the past five years, Operation Safety Net has successfully connected more than 1,000 of the individuals it serves to housing, several of whom previously received services at the SWES.
During the winter of 2013-2014, one of the coldest on record, the SWES operated 79 nights, an increase of 17 nights from the previous winter (2012-2013). The shelter served an average of 104 people each night. Overall, 870 unduplicated individuals benefited from the shelter's activation, up from 643 individuals the previous winter. The highest census of the 2013-2014 season was recorded on February 11, 2014; 156 individuals were served that night. The low temperature that day was 1 degree Fahrenheit.
The SWES is made possible by funding from Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, The City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System (PMHS) and its Operation Safety Net, the National Emergency Food and Shelter Program, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, and donations from private groups and Individuals. Allegheny County Police, Smithfield United Church of Christ, Shepherd's Heart Fellowship, Catholic Men's Fellowship, and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank are important service partners.
Monetary donations in support of the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter are welcome. Donations may be made online at www.pmhs.org or mailed to Pittsburgh Mercy Health System's Development Office, 101 Bradford Road, Suite 320, Wexford, PA 15090. Please make checks payable to Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and specify that the gift is intended for Operation Safety Net's Severe Weather Emergency Shelter. To make a donation by telephone, contact Connie Murray, executive director, PMHS Development, at 724.934.3537.
For more information about the SWES, please contact Stephanie Chiappini, program manager, Operation Safety Net, at 412.246.2980.