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City says affordable housing is one way to help people experiencing homelessness

City discusses ways to help people experiencing homelessness
City discusses ways to help people experiencing homelessness 03:15

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — What is being done to help people experiencing homelessness in the city of Pittsburgh?

Some people said they enjoyed walking the Allegheny River Trail until the recent surge in people experiencing homelessness, who now line the path in tents and tent encampments.

"You're out for an evening or an afternoon walk, all you want to do is look at the river," Lee Wojasky said. "You don't necessarily want to see all that. "

The city said it didn't see the huge jump in the camps coming. It attributes it to the pandemic, a shortage of affordable housing and skyrocketing rents. 

Lisa Franks, the Gainey administration's chief operating officer, said the answer is more housing.

"If we can begin to increase the supply of housing, we can start to move people more quickly to the place that they want to be and the place that other residents want them to be," she said.

But housing waiting lists are long and the city and county are currently only freeing up two or three new beds a week. Councilwoman Deb Gross said the city and county have spent tens of millions of dollars over the years to provide housing and aren't seeing the results.

"If they're not enough or we've got the wrong programs in place that aren't effective in getting people into housing, then we need to change what the programs are," she said

In the meantime, the city is funding Allegheny Health Network outreach workers who try to connect people experiencing homelessness with the services they need. According to the people themselves, other organizations have provided them tents to live in but haven't helped with employment or housing.

"The resources that are for the homeless are, 'Hey, I'm going to help you survive this homeless.' It's not to help you get off the streets," one man said.

Franks said the city will not remove the encampments. And while the city does not provide tents, she said it will try to keep them safe.

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