FAQs About Recent Funding – Get the Full Story

As Allegheny County’s Homeless Advisory Board votes to eliminate funding, you may have a lot of questions about how this all relates to HEARTH.

We can assure you we are doing everything in our power to continue advocating for the families in our program, to provide safe transitional housing and to continue to open door for families in crisis.

We’ve put together a list of commonly asked Questions regarding this matter, with Answers to these questions:

  1. How does HEARTH help end homelessness?
  2. What is occurring with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and their funding for HEARTH?
  3. Do we know why HUD and HAB are taking these actions?
  4. What does the impact of this funding loss mean for HEARTH and the families it serves?
  5. What is HEARTH doing in order to survive this funding loss?
  6. If 20 programs are affected by this decision, why is HEARTH the one in the news?
  7. What can I do to help?

Find Answers to all of these questions here on our new FAQ page >

Allegheny Co. Transitional Housing Agencies Could Lose Federal Funding

Members of an advisory board voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend that Allegheny County stop seeking federal funding for transitional housing programs in order to make its grant bids more competitive, and instead focus on permanent housing and “rapid re-housing” services.

But if it’s adopted by the county Department of Human Services, the policy change would dry up annual funding streams relied upon by local transitional housing facilities like HEARTH, a Shaler organization that houses survivors of domestic violence.

Human Services Director Marc Cherna said a Department of Housing and Urban Development consultant came to Pittsburgh recently to advise DHS leaders to remove transitional housing programs from the county’s annual bid for federal housing funding.

“What the consultant said, basically, was, ‘You should be looking at getting rid of your transitional housing and reallocating that money to permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing,’” Cherna said.

Cherna said the change is necessary to stay competitive in the HUD grant process.

“If we don’t change with the HUD priorities and we lose the funding, then we lose those resources to the county,” Cherna said. “So, that’s the issue. This has nothing to do with the county deciding this. This is HUD’s priority that we are trying to meet so we can be competitive.”

But HEARTH executive director Judy Eakin said HUD actually recommends transitional housing for special populations, like the domestic violence victims her agency serves.

“We have cameras, security fobs, all types of things to keep them safe, away from their abusers,” Eakin said. “When you look at rapid re-housing and permanent housing, it is scattered-site all through the community, and there isn’t that type of support, safety, counseling, case management.”

Eakin said youth and those fighting addictions can also benefit from transitional housing.

“We need to look at the most vulnerable populations and be sure that we’re providing them options of housing support and all the services they need the entire way through our continuum, and not just allocate all our money in one direction,” Eakin said.

The recommendation made Tuesday by the Homelessness Advisory Board suggests excluding all transitional housing programs from Allegheny County’s annual HUD grant application. HEARTH representatives said their organization would lose $500,000, about half of its annual budget, and noted that about 20 other agencies in the county could lose federal grant funding, as well.

Read the article on 90.5 WEST Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station >

Local nonprofits say they will lose out with changes in HUD funding

A change in how federal funds are allocated to local housing programs has upset some nonprofits that stand to lose out.

The county’s Homeless Advisory Board voted earlier this week to not ask for federal funding for transitional housing, in favor of other types of programs, including “rapid rehousing.”

Marc Cherna, director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, said the county is responding to federal preferences about the best way to solve homelessness.

“HUD periodically changes their priorities. If you don’t stay ahead of that curve, you lose, you don’t get funded,” Mr. Cherna said, referring to funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Allegheny County gets about $18.5 million in HUD funds for homelessness, Mr. Cherna said; about $3.8 million goes to 11 agencies and 18 programs that provide “transitional housing” — essentially a step where people can stay up to 24 months between an emergency homeless shelter and a permanent home.

Among the affected agencies is HEARTH, a 20-unit transitional housing facility based in Shaler that serves families made homeless by domestic violence.

The decision would shift about $500,000 in federal funding the agency now counts on for about half of its transitional-housing budget, said executive director Judy Eakin. Ms. Eakin said she understands federal policy is shifting away from supporting transitional housing programs, but she believes the domestic violence victims served by her agency are a unique population.

“Providing necessary housing to victims of domestic violence must not be a priority,” she said.

Ms. Eakin also said her agency is very successful in helping the women it serves find employment and eventually, permanent housing.

HEARTH sued Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services last year over an unrelated issue; the suit was settled out of court.

The funding changes will likely mean Clairton-based Sisters Place, which assists homeless single-parent families, will have to change some of how it serves its clients, who are mostly homeless single mothers.

“HUD has been talking about this for years, and the providers have not really agreed with it, to be honest with you,” said Sister Mary Parks, the agency’s executive director.

But the shift in funding toward so-called “rapid rehousing” and away from transitional housing is clearly happening at the federal level, she said. Rapid rehousing essentially seeks to put families and individuals in permanent housing as quickly as possible, and provide supports for them there.

“I don’t see another option for [the county], even though none of us like it,” she added.

Sister Mary said in her experience, a period of time in transitional housing is needed to help families gain stability before being able to live on their own.

“My experience tells me, they need more support. But I also see the county’s point. You can’t lose millions of dollars meant to help the homeless,” she said.

A 2015 research report from The Urban Institute noted that research is still limited about how effective rapid rehousing is compared with other methods of combating homelessness.

“[E]arly evaluation and program data indicate that rapid re-housing reduces returns to homelessness,” the report found, but noted further research is required. It also noted this method does not necessarily solve long-term housing affordability issues.

Transitional housing programs can be costly, the same report noted — about $40 to $149 a night, depending on the city, or $1,200 to $4,470 a month — and not always successful.

Mr. Cherna said he believes all of the local agencies currently being funded “can adapt to what we need them to do,” and there will not be any overall loss of beds for those who are homeless.

“If we did not try to meet … HUD’s priorities, we run a significant risk of losing millions of dollars to this county for homeless services,” he said.

By Kate Giammarise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette >

If you love shopping on Amazon, shopping on smile.amazon.com is no different!

EXCEPT… 0.5% is donated to a charity of your choice. Why not choose HEARTH?

There’s no cost to you the customer and there’s no charge to HEARTH. The products are the same, everything is the same, except for the difference you can make by going through AmazonSmile.

How it works: Visit smile.amazon.com, search and select HEARTH as your charity of choice. And make your gifts this Holiday a bit more meaningful.

Great News for HEARTH!

HEARTH is honored to be one of the first recipients of Allegheny Financial Group’s Good Neighbor donation. HEARTH plans to use the donation by helping our clients create healthier lifestyles. This includes purchasing exercise equipment, workout DVDs and screens, and books on healthy lifestyles. We will need volunteers to provide access to the exercise room and teach classes, so if you would like to get involved in this project, please call Vicky Gill at 412-366-9801 x13. For complete information on the Good neighbor Grants, click here.

Non-profits helping other non-profits

In these financially hard times it was nice to see other non-profit organizations helping HEARTH. In true holiday spirit many of our local non-profit organizations did not hesitate to make this holiday season extra special for the families of Benedictine Place.

• The McCandless Rotary brings together businesses and professional leaders for humanitarian work. This past holiday season the McCandless Rotary decided to take-part in HEARTH’s Angel Tree sponsorship. McCandless Rotary has been donating to HEARTH since 1997.

• The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (GPCFB) is an organization that collects and distributes food through a large network in 11 counties within the southwestern Pennsylvania area. The GPCFB is also a member of Feeding America, which is formerly known as America’s Second Harvest. This year for the holidays the GPCFB in association with KDKA TV’s Turkey Campaign donated 15 Giant Eagle gift cards worth $15 each to HEARTH.

• North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO) is dedicated to helping those in need. They offer several services to the community; food pantries, utility assistance, emergency financial help, college scholarships for non-traditional adult students, and support groups along with other services. The NHCO donated 15 Giant Eagle gift cards that were each worth $25 to HEARTH this past holiday.

• The Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (CLO) is very prestigious organization that puts on musical theater and showcases local talent. The organization has paved the way for many talented artists in the industry. As a special gift to the families at Benedictine Place the Pittsburgh CLO donated eight tickets to A Musical Christmas Carol.

• The Wexford Christian Center is a drop-in day care and preschool designed to help families of the surrounding communities. This last holiday the 4-year-old classes made candy treats, which were delivered to HEARTH for the families of Benedictine Place to enjoy.

• The Woodlands Foundation is dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses. The Woodlands Foundation donated six $25 Giant Eagle gift cards to the families of Benedictine Place.

• Community Care Behavioral is an organization that manages and continuously improves the delivery of behavioral health services. They provide this service throughout the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In spirit of the holiday season employees on the Children’s team went and picked up Christmas trees and then delivered them to HEARTH for the families in the program to enjoy.

The families of Benedictine Place were given a wonderful holiday season because of the kindness and generosity of the non-profit organizations that donated to HEARTH this past holiday. Thanks to the non-profit organizations the families participating in Benedictine Place were blessed with gift cards for food, delicious treats and holiday cheer essentials. HEARTH could not appreciate its fellow non-profit organizations’ help more.