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KDKA Investigates: Helping people experiencing homelessness in Pittsburgh

KDKA Investigates: Helping people experiencing homelessness in Pittsburgh
KDKA Investigates: Helping people experiencing homelessness in Pittsburgh 03:11

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Homelessness is on the rise in our region, up 21 percent in Allegheny County from last year. 

And nowhere is that increase more visible than in the city of Pittsburgh. Tents and tent encampments seem to be popping up everywhere in parks and other public spaces, especially along the riverfront trails.

Bruce Wagner of Hampton is among the many cyclists, walkers and runners who pass them every day and who've grown concerned about their growing number and their well-being.

"You worry about running into them and you also worry about some of them maybe have mental issues that weren't addressed," he said.

For their part, the half-dozen young men who now live in an encampment along the riverfront said they lost or quit their job, could no longer pay rent, and ended up in the street. Once there, they've found it increasingly difficult to get off for lack of an address.

"Makes it a lot harder to get a job, even a basic job," one man experiencing homelessness told KDKA-TV. "I feel like you get judged as soon as you have nothing in your address line."

Once homeless, most have opted to stay outside in a tent. KDKA-TV noticed many of the tents to be the same make and model, which they say were provided by outreach workers. The city said it does not know the source. 

"We basically live off of food stamps, water, panhandling," another man experiencing homelessness said.

The city attributes the rise to the pandemic, high rents and a lack of affordable housing. The mayor's office has rejected calls from some residents to have the encampments removed from the parks and waterfronts, saying it is "working to connect them to the resources they need."

"We firmly believe that every resident of our city deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and this includes our unhoused residents, and hope that our city can come together as a community and joins us in the work to solve this long standing and critical issue," the city said.

Some here said they need more help from that greater community.

"We have goals the same as you or anybody else watching," one man said. "But it makes it hard when you have a constant bias towards you."

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