Pittsburgh Mercy Health System's Operation Safety Net and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services are again operating the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter for the homeless.
Dr. Jim Withers, medical director and founder of Operation Safety Net, says the emergency shelter is located at the Smithfield United Church of Christ in downtown Pittsburgh and operates from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. now through March 15 whenever the temperatures is predicted to be below 25 degrees or there are conditions of freezing rain, heavy snowfall or during a National Weather Service declared blizzard/emergency weather situation....
"We try to make the call (to open the shelter) a couple of days ahead so we can mobilize the folks who man the shelter and the various community groups that supply the food."
The number of people served at the emergency shelter ranges from 70 to 130 per night.
Withers says this shelter is for when the 12 regular shelters are filled or for those who don't use those shelters ..."these folks will go into the emergency shelter because I think there is a trust level that we've developed from visiting them for 18 years in their campsites and in their alleys where they may be sleeping. It's the same staff, so they know us. They understand that there will be someone they recognize and be comfortable with."
Withers says there is a medical clinic at the emergency shelter and clients are fed. He says women are transported to Miriam's Shelter and veterans can go to Shepherd's Heart in the uptown section.
Withers says his teams are in regular contact with the homeless so they inform them when the emergency shelter is operating.