Shaler OKs use of former Zoar Home
Almost a year after the board was approached initially, Shaler commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday night to grant a conditional use permit to Hearth Benedictine Housing to turn the former Zoar Home site into apartments for single mothers.
... Read the full story from Post-Gazette.com
HEARTH’s homeless program has found a new future home
In December 2009 the Benedictine Sisters notified HEARTH that they were selling their ten acre campus including Benedictine Place. The urgency of the situation required the HEARTH Board to acquire a new home. Without a new facility, this successful program will cease to exist.
As part of funding HEARTH’s new home, the organization will conduct a $1.5 million capital campaign seeking support from foundations, individuals and corporations which believe in and are committed to the quality work that HEARTH has been and is doing with hundreds of local women and their children. The remaining funding will be secured from government grants.
After a careful search of options and available facilities, HEARTH plans to purchase the former “Zoar Home” property that includes a main building and one house on five acres situated on Mount Royal Road in Shaler Township.
The project includes:
• The renovation of the main building to create 20 units of transitional housing which will include:
- - 12 two-bedroom units
- - 8 three-bedroom units
- - Evening manager apartment
- - Case manager’s office
- - Childcare room
- - Community room
- - Elevator
• The renovation of the on-site house to accommodate six support offices.
• The inclusion of “green” technology in the main building, which will minimize operating expenses, free more resources for programming and improve the quality of life for the resident families.
• The five-acre Mount Royal site opens the door for expanded services in the future.
Agency for homeless wants to buy Shaler property
Thursday, March 03, 2011
By Rita Michel
Pittsburgh Post Gazette, post-gazette.com
Hearth may have found a new home in Shaler.
After helping homeless women and children at Benedictine Place in Ross for 15 years, the social services agency was told it had to move because the Benedictine sisters who hold the agency's lease were selling their property.
Those who run the program would like to buy the former Zoar Home property at 3724 Mount Royal Blvd. in Shaler and renovate it to house the 15 families the agency serves. The five-acre site includes a main building and a house. The deadline for Hearth to move is June 15.
Judy Eakin, executive director of Hearth, which stands for Homelessness Ends with Advocacy, Resources, Training and Housing, told Shaler commissioners Feb. 22 that the agency provides housing, counseling and basic necessities for homeless, single mothers while the women attend school aimed at helping them obtain employment. During the 15 years the program has been in operation, 75 percent of participants have gotten jobs and become taxpayers, Ms. Eakin said.
Hearth's residents are referred to the agency by churches, schools and the North Hills Community Outreach; the homeless women and their children can stay up to two years while going to school and searching for jobs. Current participants range in age from 22 to 42 and have a total of 24 children, 10 of whom are school age. Younger children attend local child care centers while their mothers go to school and work, Ms. Eakin noted, further benefiting the community.
The program has a 24-hour live-in staff, security cameras, regular inspection of the apartments and strict rules forbidding overnight adult guests, drinking and drugs. Program participants are subject to random drug testing that is conducted on-site by a qualified nurse.
To buy the property in Shaler, Hearth would form a limited partnership with TREK Development Group of Pittsburgh, a real estate development firm that forms partnerships with nonprofits. Hearth and TREK would negotiate with a local bank to sell tax credits, turning what is now a vacant building into a tax-paying property.
After financing is in place, TREK would make a formal application to the Shaler planning commission. The township commissioners would have final say on the plans.
If the board approves Hearth's bid, construction would start about this time next year, Ms. Eakin said.
Shaler commissioners asked how long the agency planned to stay in the township.
"We never want to move again," Ms. Eakin responded, adding that Hearth is moving only because the Benedictine sisters put their property up for sale.
Ms. Eakin said the Zoar site is a more desirable property than the program's present site because it has air conditioning and elevators.
More hearings will be held on the proposal.
One problem with the site is Port Authority's plans to cut bus routes, said township manager Timothy Rogers. Mount Royal Boulevard bus route may be eliminated.
Statement of Need
HEARTH is one of the largest organizations serving homeless families in Allegheny County. The organization began 20 years ago when a group of local human service providers identified affordable housing as the foremost-unmet need in Northern Allegheny County. Since 1995, HEARTH has served 556 individuals: 196 women and 360 children.
HEARTH’s primary program is Benedictine Place, a 15-unit transitional housing facility for women and their children. Benedictine Place, while not formally associated with the Benedictine Sisters, is leased from the order and is located in Ross Township.
Of the women who have completed the introductory phase of Benedictine Place program:
- 84% obtained permanent housing
- 88% increased their educational level
- 95% increased their income
- 75% secured employment
Benedictine Place is distinct among area homeless agencies in that it:
- Requires each resident to be enrolled in an educational or job training program
- Focuses on economic self-sufficiency through education, personal, financial and career counseling, tutoring, job skills assessment, child care, parenting classes, support groups, programming for children and recreational opportunities
- Accepts families with boys older than 12 years of age
- Accepts families with up to four children
- Is located on public transportation routes that take residents to Pittsburgh employers that can provide 9-5 jobs with reasonable wages and easy access to child care.
Women and their children that seek residence at Benedictine Place come to us with a number of issues that often lead to homelessness: domestic violence, physical and mental health problems, multiple evictions, unpaid debts, a lack of marketable skills, a weakness in decision making skills, and an absence of healthy role models and support systems. In turn, the personal challenges these women have negatively impact their children.
Benedictine Place addresses not only homelessness, but also the core issues that create homelessness, by providing internal and external support that allow these women to become economically self-sufficient and independent.
In 2009, HEARTH opened two additional programs: PRIDE and HEARTH at Benet Woods.
- PRIDE is a permanent housing program for women, with mental health and/or physical disabilities, and their children. This program is comprised of six scattered site units in the North Hills.
- HEARTH at Benet Woods is the first permanent affordable rental housing for working families and individuals in Northern Allegheny County.