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A new shelter for families who need someplace to live in case of an emergency will address a longstanding need in the Mon Valley.
Opened last week in Duquesne by McKeesport-based Auberle, the shelter can accommodate up to 20 individuals at one time and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Affordable housing is already really difficult to obtain, and in the Mon Valley there are a lot of issues with people being able to maintain employment and find affordable housing, which leads to housing instability and crisis,” said Aisling McIntyre, Auberle's housing director, who is supervising the staff and opening of the facility.
“The goal of the program is to keep families safe, assist them with securing more permanent housing and link them to available resources,” McIntyre said.
Auberle is seeking donations of new items for people who stay in the Family Emergency Shelter including diapers, baby wipes, towels, washcloths, baby formula and more.
“Many of the families who will be coming in have young children, and these items go quickly,” McIntyre said.
The shelter is located in a building that Auberle already owned in Duquesne.
According to data from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, 320 families with children were served in emergency shelters in Allegheny County in 2016.
But oftentimes families won't or can't go to shelters, because they only accept men, or only accept women, or don't accept children, McIntyre said. Auberle recognized the need for a facility that was accessible to all families, she said.
“We believe families should be able to stay together, because that’s going to decrease the likelihood of this traumatic event harming the family bond and children,” McIntyre said. “There are a lot of shelters for just men or women but we wanted every family to be able to access safe, short-term shelter while we help find something more permanent for them.”
The Family Emergency Shelter is a housing-first organization, she said, meaning the first priority for managers is to get people in need into the facility; get them a meal and clean, dry clothes; and then begin the process of helping them develop a housing plan.
Auberle employees will help each family create an individualized housing plan, apply for public or subsidized housing, and assist them to get into a more permanent home, McIntyre said.
“The situation looks different for every family, but the goal is for them to have something more permanent when they leave the facility," she said. "Usually, that means researching the private rental market, securing social resources or seeking out family members in a neighboring community who may be able to offer reduced room rent.”
Already, two families have taken up residence at the Family Emergency Shelter.
A secondary goal is to help families increase their income through benefits or employment, McIntyre said.
“We are looking to partner with community organizations who can help provide more long-term support, so when families leave they still have resources available to help them,” she said.
The program was made possible through a contract with DHS, which recognized the need for an initiative that helps address the significant and substantial need for a permanent Family Emergency Shelter, McIntyre said.
Founded in 1952, Auberle offers 16 programs including preventative and community based services for children, young adults and families. Last year, the agency served more than 3,800 at-risk children.
To arrange to drop off donations for the shelter, contact Deb Hilton at (412) 673-5856, extension 1315, or e-mail email@example.com.
Originally published January 14, 2018.