HEARTH was created by a group of concerned North Hills leaders who recognized an unmet need in the community who then sought to remedy that need. In 1989 they convened a meeting at LaRoche College to discuss the rise in homelessness among female-headed households. More specifically the group focused on the lack of affordable housing for these families. Participants spoke of husbands deserting wives, single mothers losing their jobs or leaving work to deal with family issues, bankruptcy and defaulted mortgages. Nonprofit leaders spoke of the lack of resources to answer the increasing demand from homeless families. All who were in attendance believed they could make a difference and the process to open doors for families in crisis began. North Hills Affordable Housing was born.
The decision was reached to open a transitional housing facility which would prepare homeless female heads of households to become independent and self-sufficient. The site selection committee searched high and low for the perfect location to transform into two and three bedroom apartments for these families. After months of searching the group discovered kindred spirits in the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh, and negotiated a long lease with them which permitted the renovation of the top two floors of the former St. Benedicts Academy building. The old classrooms would become apartments. Now began the difficult task of finding money not only to fund the construction, but money to sustain North Hills Affordable Housing.
Grant money began to trickle in. But with the grant funding came the stipulation for proving that once the facility was completed, the organization could afford to staff and maintain a program. In 1992 sustainable federal operating funding was finally approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Construction began on 15 self-contained apartments. Community support continued to grow. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) located furniture for all the apartments and then begged for storage sites until it could be moved. Church and civic groups painted the apartments. The National Guard volunteered to move furniture from storage to the facility. The in June 1995, North Hills Affordable Housing welcomed its first family into Benedictine Place.
In 1997 North Hills Affordable Housing became HEARTH (Homelessness Ends with Advocacy, Resources, Training and Housing). Shortly after the organization opened its doors, it became apparent that most of the 15 families the agency was serving were coming from domestic violence situations. Now twenty years later the agency recognizes that domestic violence is the most common cause of homelessness for the families at HEARTH and has clarified its mission specifically to serve this vulnerable population.
In 2011 the Benedictine Sisters sold their property thus ending HEARTH’s lease. The sale forced the agency into temporary quarters for approximately 24 months until a new location could be found. Now in a renovated larger facility the organization serves families through two HEARTH programs: HEARTH HOMES, its core transitional housing program and HEARTH at Benet Woods, the first affordable rental housing program in Northern Allegheny County.