Pittsburgh Mercy Health System
Operation Safety Net
Operation Safety Net reaches out to the homeless each weekday. Outreach workers search out and offer services to homeless individuals on the streets, in drop-in centers, soup kitchens and on our medical van. In addition to our paid staff, at least 30 volunteer medical clinicians, case managers and outreach workers provide quality medical services to the uninsured and homeless through a well-coordinated system of street outreach and mobile medical van sites.
Allegheny Engagement Network
In 2007, Operation Safety Net was designated the lead agency to develop the Allegheny Engagement Network, a network of the homeless providers of Allegheny County. OSN was charged with the implementation of new housing and case management programs for the homeless and connecting and expanding upon the existing services of the network providers. It is the goal of this network to capture all of the available services in the county, identify and close gaps in services and to coordinate care for the medical, housing, mental health, substance abuse and nutritional needs of the area's homeless population.
Operation Safety Net places a high value on collaboration. We have formed partnerships with local providers to provide housing, resources and services to special populations including: Area Agency on Aging, Community Human Services, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Veterans Administration, Action-Housing, Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, Women's Center and Shelter and other local shelter and housing providers. We also maintain partnerships with local churches and community organizations for assistance with household set up, clothing, food, hygiene items and furniture.
Housing and Case Management
Operation Safety Net's case management team is staffed with professional case managers and registered nurses. OSN case managers work with homeless individuals to secure ongoing and stable medical care, income, mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, permanent housing and housing retention.
The major barriers to housing for the homeless population are the lack of financial resources available to pay for security deposits, rent and furniture in addition to issues with sobriety, mental and physical illnesses. OSN has developed a strategy of intensive and multi-disciplinary case management to make appropriate housing placements with a focus on housing retention. Clients are placed into appropriate housing and supported in their housing by a team of professionals who assist in working toward overall stability. OSN's case management team has been successful in placing hundreds of individuals who once lived on the streets into permanent and transitional housing. All client placed in housing receive ongoing case management support. Units are secured through independent landlords, public and subsidized housing and special population housing facilities.
Severe Weather Emergency Shelter
- Open November through March when temperature is predicted to drop below 25° F
- Located in a church in downtown Pittsburgh
- Provides a warm place to sleep, a hot meal, showers, toiletries, medical care and case management
- Nightly census as high as 130 individuals
Project HELP (Homeless Experience Legal Protection)
In October 2009, McAuley Ministries, the grant-making arm of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System (PMHS) awarded a $43,700 seed grant to Operation Safety Net® to implement Project HELP (Homeless Experience Legal Protection), an ongoing free legal services clinic for individuals who are homeless in Pittsburgh.
In addition to providing homeless individuals with legal advocacy and support, Project HELP assists clients in restoring lost identification, filing for government benefits such as Social Security, and assistance in minor criminal cases. Project HELP supports the individual's access to employment, medical care, and permanent housing.
Volunteers are recruited through the Allegheny County Bar Foundation, Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership, Neighborhood Legal Services Association, and the Pittsburgh Paralegal Association. Participating attorneys and paralegals donate their time and services, which are offered by appointment at Operation Safety Net's offices at 1518 Forbes Ave., Uptown Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh's Project HELP is modeled after the original program, founded by Judge Jay Zainey. While accompanying several of his judicial colleagues in serving a meal at New Orleans shelter in 2004, Judge Zainey began to think how much more attorneys could do for the shelter's clients and how providing legal services could positively impact the clients. With that simple but electrifying thought, Project HELP was created. Similar programs are available in 16 other cities in the United States.
For more information about Project HELP in Pittsburgh, contact Operation Safety Net at 412.232.5739 or visit Pittsburgh's Project HELP.
- More than 100 residents and students trained annually
- Medical, nursing, pharmacy, social worker students
- Clerkships for fourth-year medical students
- Social work internships
Through an affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Operation Safety Net offers fourth-year medical students a one-month, elective rotation in street medicine. View a copy of the course description.