Unprecedented Public-Private Partnership Brings Innovative Homeless Shelter to Downtown Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH, PA (August 25, 2020) Through an unprecedented public-private collaboration, a coalition of corporate, civic and community leaders today unveiled plans for an innovative 45,000-square-foot facility near downtown Pittsburgh that provides shelter and comprehensive wrap-around services for homeless adults.

The five-story facility, which will be located on Second Avenue, adjacent to the Liberty Bridge, is the first-of-its-kind in Allegheny County operating as a year-round, low-barrier shelter for adults and their pets. Its wrap-around services will aim to address the complex issues confronting people experiencing homelessness, including addiction, unemployment and physical and behavioral health.   

Clients will have access to resources that support self-sufficiency and empower them on their path to a safe and secure quality of life.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of more than nine months of research and unprecedented collaboration among the following partners:

  • Action Housing
  • Allegheny Conference
  • Allegheny County 
  • Allegheny Health Network
  • City of Pittsburgh Office of Mayor William Peduto
  • DLA+ Architects
  • Highmark Health
  • Hillman Family Foundation
  • Pittsburgh Mercy and Operation Safety Net 
  • PJ Dick
  • PNC
  • UPMC

“This region always is at its best when we work together, and this project really epitomizes that idea,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “This public-private partnership identified a need and has worked cohesively and collaboratively to put the pieces together to find a way to address this challenge. We are grateful to all of the partners who have stepped up to the plate to advance this project and look forward to even more community partners becoming part of this initiative.”

"As a city and a region, we are coming together to focus on eliminating harm and risk to people who become homeless by restoring autonomy — to do so, we must ensure that people do not have to sleep in unsafe situations or be separated from loved ones, prioritize individual agency and dignity, and facilitate rapid connections to healthcare and other services. We cannot accept that the safest place for a person to sleep is under a bridge or that people without homes are somehow less deserving," Mayor William Peduto said. "I am grateful for our many partners and providers, and particularly our direct service workers, for tirelessly working to meet these needs."

This $21 million project, the first in which both the public and private sectors were hands-on in the development and design, has been made possible by contributions of $5 million each from both Highmark and the PNC Foundation, plus $5 million of in-kind services from UPMC, ongoing fundraising efforts from local foundations, and countless hours of consultation and expertise from the stakeholder group at large. Key to the success of the project will be the ongoing support services at the shelter run by Allegheny County. Land for the facility was donated by the City of Pittsburgh and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. 

“Public-private partnerships are at the core of some of the most successful initiatives in our community and represent Highmark’s commitment to creating and growing healthier and more vital communities in the process. That’s why Highmark has committed $5 million to this project and AHN is proud to be a part of the Steering Committee,” said Dan Onorato, executive vice president and chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Highmark Health. “We are a stronger community when we all work collaboratively to address issues and solve problems that impact our region.”

“It is particularly challenging to manage the complexities of mental health, poverty, physical health, and addiction, especially when the needs of our homeless neighbors can be so profound. We will serve all with utmost dignity and respect,” said Dr. Steven Shapiro, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, UPMC. “At UPMC, we hold tight to our mission of making care accessible, and today we celebrate the mission of service that UPMC shares with all partners.”

The deliberate approach to planning and design has been informed by best practices and lessons learned from comparable facilities across the country, as well as experts who are addressing homelessness daily and understand specific local circumstances. These experts include individuals representing local health care, government, public safety, human services, NGO and professional services (design and construction) organizations. The vision for delivery of services centers on dignity, personal control, security and privacy, harm reduction, trauma-informed care and flexibility.

“As a Main Street Bank, PNC takes a collaborative, market-specific approach to everything we do,” said Lou Cestello, head of regional markets and regional president of Pittsburgh for PNC. “While we are pleased to contribute funding from the PNC Foundation, as well as technical expertise on building and development for this project, we know the best results can’t be achieved without collaboration among local organizations with roots in the community and the infrastructure in place to make the biggest impact possible. We are eager to realize the results of this public-private collaboration. Our goal is to drive meaningful change by providing much-needed services to individuals experiencing homelessness in our own backyard.” 

“Having a home is a basic need for everyone,” said Linda Metropulos, special consultant for Action Housing. “We might look the other way when we see someone who is experiencing homelessness, sitting on the sidewalk, sleeping in an alleyway, or waiting for a cold weather shelter to open. But when you stop to think about where this person can go at the end of the day when they are exhausted or need a shower or where their next meal will come from, you realize just how hard his or her life really is. While short-term help can be found, long-term solutions will require a community-sized response. This collaborative effort is breath-taking in its scope and an incredible show of compassion and generosity that is needed to truly serve those members of the Pittsburgh community who are most in need. It is an important addition to an existing safety net that is already caring for some of our most at-risk citizens.”

Functions and services include the following key components:

  • Client services, including care for shelter, drop-in and single-room occupancy populations. The case management team will assess the needs and navigate to appropriate resources and supportive services, including a small clinic for physical and behavioral health services as well as alcohol and other drug treatment programs;
  • Drop-in Center with personal hygiene facilities, laundry, snacks and client services for individuals experiencing homelessness, but who are not necessarily staying at the facility;
  • 95 beds with room for 42 overflow beds in group sleeping rooms with dedicated personal hygiene facilities, living room and locker storage;
  • Mail services, important to those without a permanent address;
  • A singular area to include lounges, a library and computer room, kitchen, dining and outdoor plaza space and seating;
  • 42 single-room occupancy units to facilitate transition to independent housing; and
  • Adequate quiet room and support space, workstations and kitchenette for the staff serving this facility.

Full design and construction activities are expected to proceed imminently. 

Progress will be tracked and measured toward outcomes that reduce chronic homelessness in Pittsburgh. 


Olivia Lammel



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