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Severe Weather Emergency Center Will be Available for the Homeless

Operation Safety Net thanks St. John Capistran Ladies of Charity, of Upper St. Clair, and others for making the shelter possible.

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services Office of Community Services and Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s Operation Safety Net will again operate the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter for the safety of people who are street homeless.

The shelter, located at the Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield Street, provides temporary, overnight accommodations, professional social services and protection from frigid temperatures to people who typically do not use other existing shelter resources during periods of severe weather.

From Nov. 15 through March 15, 2012, the SWES will operate from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. when the temperature drops below 25 degrees Fahrenheit 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 by calling 412-779-1329. Please note: the phone line is not staffed, and messages cannot be left at this number.

In addition to providing basic human services and professional case management services, Operation Safety Net coordinates employees and volunteers who staff the shelter and procures all of the necessary supplies—including sleeping bags, linens, winter apparel and food—for persons served. Allegheny County Police provide security each night the shelter is activated.

Last winter, the SWES operated a record 64 nights, up from 63 nights the previous shelter season, and the shelter served an average of 88 people each night. Overall, more than 500 individuals benefited from the shelter’s activation. Fifty of those individuals were 25 years of age or younger, while 40 were age 60 or older. In addition, approximately 15 percent of people served at the shelter last year were women, with the average age of women served being 39. The average age of men served was 45.

Of those who came to the shelter for services last year, Operation Safety Net case managers successfully connected 135 people to services and benefits, and secured permanent housing in the community for 65 people. In the past five years, Operation Safety Net has successfully housed more than 780 individuals.

The SWES is made possible by funding from DHS and the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the City of Pittsburgh Department of Economic Development, and Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Operation Safety Net would like to recognize and thank the following community partners and organizations that help make the SWES possible: Bechtel Plant Machinery, Bethlehem Haven, Community Human Services, East End Cooperative Ministries, East Suburban Young Marines, First Step Recovery, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, House of Crossroads,  Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, Light of Life Rescue Mission, Michael’s Place, Mission Vision, Mother of Sorrows Youth Group (Murrysville), Northside Common Ministries, Passavant Memorial Homes, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship, the Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh, Smithfield United Church of Christ, Springboard Kitchens, Ladies of Charity (Upper St. Clair), St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Mt. Lebanon), VA Pittsburgh’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, Verizon Pioneers, the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, and Young Lawyers Group of Pittsburgh.

Monetary donations are welcomed and can be 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 and the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter. To make a donation by telephone, contact Connie Murray, executive director, PMHS Development at 724-934-3537. To make a donation online, visit: www.pmhs.org.

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