PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Heading into the winter, there are close to 200 people experiencing homelessness, living in tent encampments in and around Downtown without enough shelter to house them. Two city council members have a proposal to get them off the street.
The councilmembers want to consolidate these encampments on sites away from Downtown where they can provide them bathrooms, showers, food and a host of other services.
For three years now, the story has remained roughly the same: people experiencing homelessness -- now estimated at between 150 and 200 -- living in tent encampments mostly in and around Downtown and not enough round-the-clock shelter or housing to relocate them.
"We're just looking to help the people who are in the street and get them in a, safe warm place this winter," said Councilman Anthony Coghill of Beechview.
Without enough shelter beds or more permanent housing, Councilmembers Anthony Coghill and Deb Gross are proposing a pilot program, establishing the first of several consolidated campsites.
"We're taking about 25 possible residences, we're talking about warming tents-slash-health services provided, another tent over here for food and clothing -- anything they might need," Coghill said.
"If we don't have permanent housing at least we can have a clean, safe, tiny neighborhood," said Gross.
While tent villages -- most likely on riverfront sites, with security, bathrooms, showers and other amenities -- are not the optimum solution, Gross calls it a stopgap until more permanent affordable housing can be secured or built.
"This is not a great situation. I don't love sitting here proposing that people live in tents. But the fact is they're there. We're coming on cold weather and they can be safer, cleaner and warmer. We can afford to do it and so we should do it," Gross said.
The city has said it won't remove anyone from their tent unless there's shelter available, and while the county says it can provide overnight shelter during cold spells, there isn't any additional round-the-clock shelter, and so most of these encampments will remain.
"We need a better way. And we feel like we came up with a better way, at least one idea," Coghill said.
While not naming any potential locations, Coghill and Gross say the consolidated sites are the best available alternatives.
"We need the buy in from the administration and from the county. Without it, we're kind of wasting our time. So we plan to talk to them, I expect to hear from them this week," Coghill said.
But Coghill and Gross want action on this plan very soon as temperatures are dropping and there are still between 150 and 200 people living on the street.
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