Watch CBS News

County focusing on getting those experiencing homelessness into permanent housing

County focusing on getting those experiencing homelessness into permanent housing
County focusing on getting those experiencing homelessness into permanent housing 03:26

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - There are still scores of people experiencing homelessness without temporary housing and hundreds more who can't find a permanent place to live. 

The city cleared out an encampment on the Allegheny Riverfront and decommissioned another on the North Side, many finding shelter in the newly-opened Second Avenue Commons. But while less visible, the problem has not been solved. 

"I think they're more scattered, a little more tucked in and off the beaten trail," said Jerrel Gilliam of Light of Life Mission. 

Even on the coldest nights, there are still those experiencing homelessness who won't come to a shelter. They're living in more obscured encampments like one off of the 16th Street Bridge or in individual tents or squatting in vacant houses.

Gilliam says many still out there are severely mentally ill. He supports a controversial New York City policy of involuntarily committing those who are a danger to themselves or others.

"Sometimes there's been this notion that by leaving a person out there who to me is suffering -- leaving them out there is somehow letting them have their rights but actually you're not treating them well," he said. 

Even with Second Avenue open, the county estimates there are still between 130 and 150 people without temporary shelter and hundreds more in shelters who cannot get into permanent housing, which is the ultimate goal of the county's Department of Human Services.

"You can build all the shelter you want but if you don't have flow into permanent housing, the people aren't really moving on," said Erin Dalton with the department. 

DHS, which gets $40 million a year to address homelessness, supports a policy called "housing first." The idea has been to get those experiencing homelessness into a place like Second Avenue where they receive counseling and other support with the goal of getting them a permanent place to live. 

But as the homeless population has grown, the process of getting people into permanent housing has slowed. In 2018, more than 700 people left shelter to a permanent destination. In 2022 only 415 people left to that outcome, a slowdown of over 40 percent. The county's having a more difficult time finding willing landlords to take them.

"I think they're just looking at their options. Because market rents have risen over the past couple of years, there's other people at their door willing to pay those rents," Dalton said. 

The county is now offering landlords a $2,000 signing bonus to rent to a homeless person and another $1,000 if they stay for a year.

"We're just now getting the word out about those incentives and hoping it helps more people interested in this population," Dalton said. 

But in about a quarter of the cases, the renters haven't stayed, abandoning those properties for life once again on the streets -- just another indication of how homelessness defies easy solutions. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.