In Allegheny County, a network of shelters provides a temporary place to stay for people experiencing homelessness. Allegheny County’s emergency shelter network includes facilities which serve adults only and others that offer accommodations to families with children or other dependents. The County strives to ensure that every shelter stay is rare, brief and non-recurring.

Individuals in adult-only households make up about three-quarters of all shelter users. This data brief focuses on the 1,560 adults who entered one of the County’s 13 adult-only emergency shelters once or more from April 2022 through March 2023..  For descriptions of other people served in the homeless system, see these related data briefs: “Families using emergency shelters in Allegheny County” and “People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness in Allegheny County.

  • 70% (N=1,096) of the people using adult-only shelters were men. Black individuals were overrepresented, making up 51% of those using shelter but only 14% of Allegheny County’s population. 80% of people were between 25 and 64 years old and relatively evenly distributed among the four age groups in that range. 13% were ages 18 through 24 and 7% were 65 or older.
  • 76% (N=1,181) of people had only one shelter stay during the period of study. 15% had two stays and 9% had three or more.
  • Half of the shelter stays were for two weeks or less. 25% of shelter stays lasted five days or fewer and 75% were for 54 days or fewer.
  • Most of the people using shelters had recent addresses in Allegheny County communities. 46% had recent addresses in the City of Pittsburgh, with the most common neighborhoods being Carrick, East Liberty, Marshall-Shadeland and Sheradan. The remaining 54% had addresses outside of the City, with the most common municipalities being McKeesport, Wilkinsburg and Penn Hills.
  • Among shelter exits for which we have exit information, 49% (N=760) of stays resulted in exits to stable housing.  Almost half of the people who exited their stay(s) within two weeks exited to stable housing, increasing to 58-65% of people who exited their stay(s) after a month.
  • Less than half of individuals reported income from any source. PA Department of Labor and Industry data provides some insight over time; about one-third of people using shelter were employed in any given quarter from 2017 through 2022. For those who were employed, wages averaged between $663–$1,017 per month.
  • 17% (N=259) of people had a shelter stay in the year prior to their first stay in the study period. 8% (N=132) were engaged in a supportive housing program in the year prior to their shelter stay.
  • Other services and system involvement:
    • Behavioral health services. Among adult shelter users enrolled in Medicaid (N=945), more than 75% accessed behavioral health services. 43% (N=404) accessed mental health outpatient care, 39% used a mental health crisis service and 15% used a mental health inpatient service. The most frequent mental health diagnoses were depressive disorder, adjustment disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 35% (N=327) used a substance use disorder service. The top substance use disorders involve opioids and alcohol.
    • Physical health services. For Medicaid-enrolled individuals, the most common chronic condition was hypertension, followed by kidney disease and diabetes. Adults using shelter have higher rates of many chronic diseases than those in the general Medicaid-enrolled population in the County.
    • Criminal Justice System. About a third of people were involved with the adult criminal justice system in the year prior to their shelter stay.
    • Other services. Five percent (N=75) of adults were involved in child welfare as a parent. 20% (N=46) of older adults (aged 60+) using shelter were connected to aging services in the year prior to their entry.

Emergency shelters are meant to be short-term housing for people experiencing a crisis. The County’s goal is to ensure that shelter stays are rare, brief and non-recurring.  The County is working with shelter staff and other housing providers to support client moves to stable housing when possible, with the goal of improving their overall outcomes and ensuring that short-term beds are available when people need them.

Current Information

Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) believes that appropriate sharing of client information is essential to the provision, continuity and overall quality of care provided to DHS clients. It has created a number of tools and mechanisms to facilitate this sharing, including the creation of tools for contracted providers to access information on clients they are serving and mechanisms for providers to safely and security share client information back with DHS. Read more about this here and access the tools through the below links.

Where can I access provider tools?

Links to clientivew, a tool for individual care coordination, and provider connect, a tool for to support provider decision-making, are found here. You can also access data exchange, one of the tools that providers can use to securely share information back with DHS.

How I can gain access to these tools if I don’t already have it?

If you are a contracted provider with DHS, you can request access to provider tools through DHS’s application support portal.

Learn more about the Data Warehouse

What is the Allegheny County Data Warehouse?

The Allegheny County Data Warehouse brings together and integrates client and service data from a wide variety of sources both internal and external to the County.

How was the Data Warehouse developed?

The Data Warehouse was created by consolidating publicly-funded human services data (e.g., behavioral health, child welfare, developmental supports, homelessness and aging) and, over time, expanded to include data from other sources. The Data Warehouse was made possible with support from the Human Service Integration Fund, a flexible funding pool created by a coalition of local foundations for the purpose of supporting integration and innovation within DHS.

How does the Data Warehouse support of the work of Allegheny County?

The Data Warehouse was designed primarily to improve services to clients, but also to improve the ability of workers to perform their jobs and to support management decisionmaking; it is also intended to be available as a community resource, making data and information publicly available whenever possible.

Where can I learn more?

  • This overview document describes the development of the Data Warehouse, the County’s data sharing partnerships, and how the data is utilized to support client services and decisionmaking. 

What is the DHS case competition?

Each year, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) hosts a competition for local graduate students that challenges interdisciplinary teams to solve a problem in local government.

What information is available?

Yearly reports, below, describe the case topic and students’ proposed solutions. A short video explains the event.


All reports

  • 2023: Improving outcomes for people involved in an involuntary commitment
  • 2022: Innovating in the Aftershock of COVID-19: A Post-Pandemic Local Government Playbook
  • 2019: Human Service Delivery in the Gig Economy
  • 2018: Emerging Technologies to Address Human Service Problems
  • 2017: Rethinking Human Services Delivery
  • 2016: Improving Systems to Help People with Barriers Gain and Sustain Employment
  • 2015: Making Transportation Work: Creating Access and Ensuring Equity
  • 2014: Pathways to Safe and Affordable Housing for People Involved in the Human Services System
  • 2013: Building a Human Services Workforce for the 21st Century
  • 2012: Addressing Suburban Poverty and Those Affected by It
  • 2011: Reducing Stigma among Individuals with Serious Mental Illness
  • 2010: Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Pathways to the Promise
  • 2009: Building the Homewood Children’s Village
  • 2008: Greening DHS
  • 2007: The Future of DHS

In its responsibility for administering publicly-funded human services, Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) plans for the allocation of more than $1B in areas that span behavioral health, children and families, aging, housing and homelessness, and intellectual disability and autism services.

How does DHS plan its allocation of resources?

DHS planning activities are ongoing and iterative. They include:

What is the County Human Services Plan?

The County Human Services Plan consolidates planning requirements for categorical components of the Human Services Block Grant, including Mental Health Community Base-Funded Services, Behavioral Health Services Initiative (BHSI), Intellectual Disabilities Community Base-Funded Services, Act 152 of 1988 Drug and Alcohol Services, Homeless Assistance Program Funding, and Human Services Development Funds. It is submitted annually to the PA Department of Human Services, 60 days after the agency releases its annual bulletin (usually in the summer).

What is the Needs-Based Plan and Budget?

The Needs-Based Plan and Budget articulates Allegheny County’s priorities, planned services, and resource needs for serving children and families – in particular those children and families who are involved with, or at risk of involvement with, the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. It is submitted annually to the PA Department of Human Services, Office of Children, Youth & Families (the budget narrative submission deadline is August 15th every year).

State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2024-25

Older plans:

What is the Area Agency on Aging Strategic Plan?

The Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is part of a nationwide aging network led by the U.S. Administration on Community Living and the Pennsylvania Department on Aging (PDA). Every four years, PDA requires each of the Commonwealth’s fifty-two (52) Area Agencies on Aging to submit an action plan for the following four years. This Four-Year Plan considers the demographic trends of the region, the changing needs of the consumers, and the current services provided by the Allegheny County AAA.

Additionally, every year the Allegheny County AAA releases Program Updates and a Budget Prospectus, as well as an Annual Report.

Community Services Needs Assessment & Strategic Plan

Allegheny County DHS is the designated community action agency for the receipt of the County’s (outside the City of Pittsburgh) Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds. CSBG is a federally funded block grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, Office of Community Services that supports services aiming to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty in under resourced communities. CSBG recipients are required to conduct a needs assessment and develop a strategic plan no less than every 5 years.  

Housing and Homelessness

Allegheny County DHS, through its Office of Community Services, is the designated Infrastructure Organization and United Funding Agency for the Allegheny County Continuum of Care (CoC) – the network of services and stakeholders engaged in making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. Starting in 2016, the CoC underwent a community planning process to create its strategic plan. The strategic planning process is summarized in Preventing and Ending Homelessness – Community Strategic Planning Process. Principles guiding the strategic plan can be found in the Guiding Principles: Allegheny County Plan to Prevent & End Homelessness. The working board of the CoC, the Homeless Advisory Board (HAB), voted to accept the plan on July 25, 2017.

Other plans

We are seeking a leader of experience, integrity and good judgment to fill the position of Director of Children Youth and Families for Allegheny County, PA. Deadline for applications is February 15, 2024. This notice contains Job Description and other information. Apply at: Allegheny County Director CYF Deadline 2-15-24

Overview

Allegheny County (core city, Pittsburgh) is seeking a person of experience, integrity and good judgment to fill the position of Director of Children Youth and Families (CYF). This Director is responsible for increasing children’s safety and wellbeing in a county of 230,000 children by leading the office responsible for child protective services and collaborating with other partners in child welfare, including Courts, schools, and community agencies.

We are a solid, quality system that has shown willingness to make large-scale changes when needed. We are seeking a Director to further solidify quality practice and chart the course for the next decade of system improvements. 

This position reports to the Director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) and is a member of the department’s 9-person executive team. The incumbent will oversee several direct staff, including three Assistant Directors and 540 indirect-report staff. Compensation is in the $140,000­—$150,000 range. The deadline for applications is February 15, 2024. Please submit your Resume, a Cover Letter that explains why you are a great candidate including specific examples from your experience, and up to 3 References at: Allegheny County Director CYF Deadline 2-15-24

Current Information

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) conducted a study of the involuntary hospitalization program in the county. Involuntary hospitalizations occur when an individual undergoing a psychiatric episode is deemed to be a clear and present danger to themselves or others.  The specific section that governs the intake process of an individual is Section 302 of the Mental Health Procedures Act (MHPA), and for that reason the entire program is sometimes called the 302 program.

Evaluations occur in a hospital setting. Following an upheld commitment individuals can initially be detained for up to 120 hours, with the potential for extensions. The county seeks to understand the system in detail and improve outcomes among individuals who go through this process.

What is this report about?

This report describes individuals who went through the involuntary hospitalization program from 2015-2022. The analysis profiles the individuals including their characteristics such as diagnosis, their usage of mental and behavioral health services, and their outcomes post release. 

What are the takeaways?

  • Involuntary hospitalizations are common, affecting over 3,700 residents each year. The most common source of referrals occur from friend / family (43%), police officers (19%), and physicians (14%).
  • Individuals who are involuntarily hospitalized have poor outcomes upon release—within 5 years of their first evaluation, fully 20% of the population has died, a rate that is higher than that for clients exiting jail, enrolling in homeless shelters, or receiving food assistance (SNAP) as well as the rate for individuals with severe mental illness (SMI) diagnoses.
  • We find worse outcomes among 302 individuals with a pre-existing substance use disorder (SUD)— 5% of those with SUD 18–50 years of age die within two years of intake, compared to 2.5% of the 18–50-year-olds without SUD. Of those with SUD, eighty percent (60%) of the mortality rate is attributable to drug overdose.
  • We found similarly elevated risks for other adverse outcomes. Over 23% were charged with a crime within 5 years of release, and 60% used an emergency department (ED) within one year of release.
  • Statistical methods can distinguish between riskier and less risky clients with high fidelity at the moment of the 302 evaluation.
  • Those petitioned for involuntary commitment were disproportionately Black, although petition-upheld rates are similar across race. A similar picture emerges for gender—men were more likely to be petitioned, but upheld rates at the point of exam were similar for men and women.

How is this report being used?

The report serves as an initial analysis into the involuntary hospitalization process. The county is using this analysis, as well as planned subsequent ones that look at the impact of an involuntary hospitalization on a person’s outcomes, and input from clinicians and community members to develop recommendations to improve care for this vulnerable population. Ultimately the county is looking to improve both the process and the outcomes for individuals who experience an involuntary hospitalization.

Making good, informed decisions about how to allocate limited resources is an ever-evolving process. The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) strives to make the most equitable decisions when allocating scarce resources for individuals and families in need. Housing is a critical resource for which demand far exceeds supply; thus, DHS is dedicated to making sure that those most at need have priority for the housing services that are available. Since 2017, DHS has developed predictive risk models that utilize administrative data to assign a risk score that is used to determine the appropriate course of action. Two of these models were developed to support prioritization of housing resources.

Allegheny Housing Assessment (AHA)

In 2020, DHS launched the Allegheny Housing Assessment (AHA), a decision support tool designed to help prioritize admissions to supportive housing services for individuals or families experiencing homelessness. The AHA forms the infrastructure for DHS’s coordinated entry system for those in a housing crisis.

The tool uses administrative data from Allegheny County’s data warehouse to predict the likelihood of three types of events occurring in a person’s life if they remain unhoused over the next 12 months: 1) a mental health inpatient stay, 2) a jail booking and 3) frequent use (4 or more visits) of hospital emergency rooms.  These events serve as indicators of harm if a person remains unhoused. The AHA assigns a risk score that is used as part of the housing prioritization process; it is far more objective and unbiased than earlier assessment tools and it doesn’t require the time or trauma associated with asking sensitive questions at the time of housing crisis.

Mental Health – Allegheny Housing Assessment (MH-AHA)

After a couple of years of experience with the AHA, DHS leadership realized that a similar tool could help prioritize admissions to residential services for individuals with a diagnosis of serious and persistent mental illness. Using the AHA as a starting point, the team developed the Mental Health – Allegheny Housing Assessment (MH-AHA) and launched it in February 2023.

Similar to the AHA, the MH-AHA utilizes administrative data from Allegheny County’s data warehouse to predict the likelihood of two potential types of adverse events that may occur in an individual’s life if they do not receive adequate support for their MH condition over the next 12 months: 1) a mental health inpatient stay and 2) frequent use [4 or more visits] of hospital emergency departments. These events serve as indicators of harm and are things we would like to prevent. The MH-AHA assigns a risk score that is used as part of the prioritization process. Individuals who are not eligible or who do not receive a risk score likely to lead to a placement in the near future will be introduced to other supportive services options instead of waiting a long time on a waiting list for a placement that might not occur.

By prioritizing those most in need of MH residential services, the MH-AHA will simplify the referral process, decrease uncertainty and reduce wait times. In addition, it will help Allegheny County document unmet MH residential needs created by the gap between limited MH residential resources and the number of high-risk eligible individuals. An external impact evaluation by researchers at Stanford will document progress toward these goals.

Select from the following documents to learn more about the AHA tool:

Select from the following documents to learn more about the MH-AHA:

Current Information

In May 2022, Allegheny County assembled a taskforce of leaders to reduce intimate partner violence (IPV) through improved coordination, information sharing, training, and implementation of interventions that target both those who use violence and those who are victims or survivors of it.

Historically, the County’s understanding of IPV has been based on national data, which, though useful, fails to capture local nuances that lend greater insight into specific community needs. The objective of this report is to provide more local context to problems of IPV in Allegheny County by describing trends in demographics, human services involvement, and criminal histories among victims and perpetrators of intimate partner homicides (IPH) from January 2017 through September 2022. Importantly, the findings presented here point to a disproportionate impact on individuals who are disadvantaged not only by their gender identity, but also by systemic racial and socioeconomic inequalities. Though IPV has traditionally been framed as an issue related to gender alone, a more intersectional understanding of risk and impact can better inform strategies for effective prevention and mitigation.

Key Findings

  • There were 45 victims (43 incidents) of IPV and IPV-spillover homicides from January 2017 through September 2022.
  • The demographic trends among individuals involved in IPH are similar to those of overall homicides: victims and perpetrators are disproportionately Black, young (aged 25-34) and living in high-need areas. Black women represent the highest proportion of victims (37%, n=16), while Black men constitute the highest proportion of perpetrators (56%, n=23).
  • Unlike homicides at large, IPH victimization disproportionately impacts women: 63% of victims of IPH are women.  While IPH accounted for roughly 7% of all homicides from January 2017 through September 2022, they made up 30% of all homicides with female victims.
  • Both victims and perpetrators of IPH had high rates of involvement in human services.  74% of perpetrators had prior involvement with child welfare, publicly funded behavioral health, or homeless and housing systems.
  • 58% of victims had prior involvement with child welfare, publicly funded behavioral health, or homeless and housing systems.
  • Across all gender, race and role categories, about 53% of individuals involved in IPH – 47 of 88 – had criminal justice involvement at some point prior to the homicide incident: 63% of perpetrators (27 of 43) and 44% of victims (20 of 45). Among perpetrators with criminal justice involvement, both Black and White men had higher rates of involvement than either Black or White women.
  • Roughly 24% of all IPV perpetrators had indicators of IPV history in either the criminal courts or child protection system. This is likely an undercount of true IPV history, as data limitations, legal restrictions and underreporting make identification of non-fatal IPV in the data difficult. Among those with domestic violence related criminal cases, the majority occurred in the 18 months prior to the homicide incident.

What is Hello Baby?

New information added September 2023

Hello Baby is designed for parents of new babies in Allegheny County to strengthen families, improve children’s outcomes, and maximize child and family well-being, safety and security. Hello Baby’s tiered prevention model offers a variety of supports designed to meet families’ varied needs and interests through the child’s third year.

How was Hello Baby developed?

Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) undertook an extensive process to develop the Hello Baby prevention strategy. In addition to drawing from decades of experience by DHS leadership, service workers and families, the process included:

  • A review of data and best practices identified in the literature
  • Dozens of individual and group meetings with local service providers, families in the community, social workers, clinical specialists and local, national and international child development experts
  • Two independent, comprehensive reviews by experts in the field

How is Hello Baby being used?

The resulting prevention program has a differentiated approach, with flexible service delivery that is based upon the understanding that each family is unique and has different and varying levels of needs and barriers to support. In addition to self- and community-referral pathways, Hello Baby also uses an innovative and predictive risk model (PRM) that uses integrated data to identify the highest need families eligible for services. Hello Baby includes a universal entry point designed to increase awareness of available support services for all new parents and improve overall engagement rates. It incorporates community level support and proven home visiting techniques, hiring culturally competent staff with lived experiences to support families with moderate to high needs and intensive engagement and service coordination to support families with the highest needs. An evaluation partner has already been selected to ensure that Hello Baby benefits from rapid feedback and learning throughout the implementation.


Related materials

For more information about Hello Baby and to access resources for new parents, visit Hello Baby online.

Recent press coverage of Hello Baby is available here.

In 2022, staff at the Urban Institute partnered with the Allegheny County DHS and the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC) to pilot synthetic data generation at the local level, to help understand the unique challenges that might face state and local governments in generating synthetic data. Each record in the synthetic dataset represents a simulated individual, or record, who received at least one service from the Allegheny County DHS in 2021. The synthetic data were designed such that records aggregated by service represent the original data. Read more here about synthetic data.

Why create a synthetic dataset?

The Department of Human Services (DHS) in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, serves one in five residents of the county every year through child welfare services, behavioral health services, aging services, developmental support services, homeless and housing supports, and family strengthening and youth supports. In the process, data are collected about these services and the population using them. These data are integrated at the individual level to allow for better care coordination, operational improvements, and program evaluation. Because of the dataset’s sensitive nature, it cannot be widely shared at an individual level, so synthetic data are used in the real dataset’s place—allowing the data to be publicly shared and helping stakeholders, including researchers, service providers, and members of the public, understand these populations better.

Current Information

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) engages clients and others who interact with DHS programs in a variety of ways: regular roundtables/cabinets (e.g., Children’s Cabinet); town halls and community forums; social media (e.g., Facebook and LinkedIn); and the Director’s Action Line (DAL). In 2018, DHS expanded its public engagement strategy to include SMS text messaging (texting), a tool that is convenient for recipients and allows DHS to scale up communication with clients and other Allegheny County residents.

What is this report about?

This data brief describes DHS’s texting outreach from 2018 to 2022.  This brief outlines the different distribution paths and mechanisms that DHS uses for text outreach, and characterizes the number and content of text messages sent, the demographics of the text recipients, and the impact of DHS’s text outreach thus far.

What are the takeaways?

  • From 2018 through 2022, DHS sent 832,038 text messages to 151,707 phone numbers.  Over the same time period, DHS received 193,283 messages in response from 19,185 phone numbers.
  • The content type of the text messages sent over this time period can be categorized as follows: program outreach (48%), data collection (44%), alerts (7%), and public policy updates (1%).
  • The subject of the text messages sent over this time period are diverse, but a disproportionate share (72%) are about transportation, due to the extensive use of text messaging for outreach and data collection in relation to the Allegheny County Discounted Fares Pilot program.
  • In 2021, 74% of text messages were related to one of the following initiatives: COVID-19 rental assistance, the Older Youth Pandemic Relief program, or information about free tax preparation services.
  • In 2022, 88% of text messages were related to one of the following initiatives: the Allegheny County Discounted Fares program, the SNAP fresh access program, or recruitment and outreach for paid research opportunities with university partners.
  • Text messaging has allowed DHS to connect clients to resources at scale, and to elicit feedback from clients who would likely never otherwise have the time or opportunity to share their feedback.  Examples of this described in the brief include text outreach associated with the Older Youth Pandemic Relief program, and text message surveys sent to clients who use Family Center services.

How is this report being used?

The county is interested in innovative and effective ways to outreach and engage with clients.  We believe that text messaging is one way to do this at scale.  The county is using the information presented in this report to inform overall strategy about how we best engage and use client feedback information to improve programs and increase overall access to social services.

At the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), we work with more than 400 community organizations to keep children and older adults safe from abuse and neglect, connect them to effective mental health and substance use treatment, provide housing for those without shelter and more. As stewards of more than $1 billion in public funding, we constantly scrutinize the programs and services we fund to ensure that they are most effectively helping clients make measurable progress toward their goals. We pay close attention to the data, including client feedback and surveys, and use these data to determine when it’s in clients’ best interest to modify existing programs or launch new ones. Recently, we have been increasing our commitment to the use of randomized pilots to measure the effectiveness of various strategies and determine how to make the best use of available resources. In keeping with our values of transparency and the appropriate use of data for decision-making, we want to share our thinking behind the use of pilots as an effective tool to further the Department’s goals and values while improving client outcomes.

What are randomized pilots?

When we ask, Was this program effective?, We want to know if client outcomes are better for program participants when compared to the outcomes of others not involved in the program. There are various ways to make this comparison. For example, we can compare client status before and after the program or we can compare their outcomes to clients who chose to not participate in the program. The weakness of both of these approaches is their reliance on the assumption that the groups are similar, i.e., on average, they would have performed the same if neither had received the intervention. Thus, we are left wondering, “How can we distinguish the program impact from the effects of time or characteristics of the participants?” Randomized pilots solve this problem by breaking the link between characteristics that could drive differences between groups and the program itself. In a randomized pilot, participants are assigned to different programs or policies randomly, based on the equivalent of a coin flip. These methods are standard practice in medical and drug trials to measure the effectiveness of health interventions with confidence; in recent years, they have become more popular with governments entities, nonprofit organizations and businesses.

Why start with a pilot?

Many organizations have highlighted the value of randomization (see here and here for examples). Rather than rehash their points, we expand upon three DHS core values that are supported by the use of pilots.

  • Accountability and Transparency: Too often, the performance of government-led initiatives or strategies are unclear, making it impossible to measure progress or demand accountability. Change, if it does occur, is not based on credible data nor connected to measurable outcomes. Without clear information, program continuation or termination may be based on subjective decisions that might be inaccurate. In contrast, DHS wants to be held accountable and to ensure that we are funding programs that measurably improve the outcomes of the clients who rely on us for critical support, services and resources. We seek to provide clear feedback to ourselves and our stakeholders, demonstrating either that our investments are producing their intended outcome(s) and that money is being spent effectively or that the program needs to be modified or even ended. Randomized pilots promote this accountability and transparency because they are simple to understand, analyze and report on.
  • Betting boldly: Pilots allow us to bet on new, unproven or controversial solutions without committing to expensive or unproven investments that don’t produce results. By getting clear data on performance of new interventions, we can make informed decisions that are in the best interest of those we serve. At DHS, pilots will never be used to generate a known answer to a question or to withhold resources for an intervention clients would otherwise be entitled to receive (e.g., publicly funded childcare subsidies).
  • Continuous improvement: Given the complexity and range of the problems we face—from the opioid epidemic to community violence—we need to use every tool at our disposal to make progress. In government, as in any endeavor, it is hard to improve without feedback. Pilots are a key part of a continuous quality improvement cycle that starts with asking whether programs are effective and how they could be better. They guard against poor decision-making by providing data on an initial investments before making longer term decisions about funding and large-scale program launches.

Pilot ethics

Earning and keeping clients’ trust is essential for our work. In line with our strategic initiatives, work on algorithms and funding decisions, we will continue to strive for transparency and community engagement as we develop pilots and report on their results and ultimate funding decisions. Our commitment to transparency and
protections for clients includes:

  • Seeking participants’ informed consent for sharing data and voluntary participation in all pilots.
  • Targeting studies to individuals and neighborhoods that can benefit from the solution.
  • Compensating clients for completing surveys and other forms of participation.
  • Protecting participants’ data—study data will always be reported only in aggregate form, protecting the individual identity of all participants.

When partnering with outside academics who propose to analyze and report on the implementation and outcomes of a pilot, they will be asked to submit their analysis plan to their institutions’ Institutional Review Board (IRB), thus minimizing the risk of unintended negative outcomes and ensuring informed consent. In any case, when we implement and analyze the results of a pilot to inform decisions about launching the program, we commit to publishing the results and decisions on our website. We welcome suggestions about potential interventions where a randomized pilot can increase our understanding of the specific intervention and of the kind of interventions community members are interested in testing (contact us at DHS-Research@alleghenycounty.us). Randomized pilots have the potential to increase our data-informed program decisions and improve the quality and relevance of program strategies; they will also challenge us to make the best use of our resources. We look forward to the challenge and hope you’ll join us as we expand this continuous quality improvement strategy. We’ll update this website as we begin new pilots and report on interim and final results.

Current Information

This dashboard shows trends in the number of people experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness from 2021 to the present.

What is this dashboard about?

This dashboard displays: 1) the number of people who were active in an emergency shelter program per night dating back to January 2019, as well as basic demographic information on race, gender, and age; and 2) the number of people known to be experiencing unsheltered homelessness based on their engagement with street outreach teams. 

What data is available?

Emergency shelter data comes from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and is updated daily. Unsheltered homelessness data comes from a document used to facilitate coordination between local street outreach teams and is updated weekly

Those active in local domestic violence emergency shelters are not represented in this dashboard, as domestic violence emergency shelters do not report usage in HMIS. These shelters have the capacity to serve approximately 100 clients per day.

Current information

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services’ (DHS) street outreach team works with people who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness, offering them immediate in-person support and help with basic needs, while also connecting them to emergency shelter, housing and critical services. Street outreach staff from DHS and partner organizations maintain a shared list of unsheltered individuals in Allegheny County with whom they are in contact, allowing staff to coordinate efforts and engage in basic case conferencing. This list represents those individuals who are working with a street outreach team and is not the entirety of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the County.

What is this report about?

This data brief focuses on a point-in-time cohort—156 individuals—who were on the street outreach list on a single day in October 2022. The brief characterizes that cohort in terms of demographics, veteran status, public benefit receipt, employment, and recent service and criminal justice involvement to inform programs and policies to better support these individuals.

What are the takeaways?

  • The most common age groups among these individuals were 25 through 34 (31%) and 35 through 44 (30%), followed by those 45 through 54 (22%). There were no children (under age 18) in this cohort (See Figure 2).
  • Sixty-five percent of this cohort were male and the majority (59%) were non-Hispanic White individuals, though People Of Color were overrepresented (See Figure 1, Table 1).
  • Among those with a recorded location (N=118), 48% (N=57) were staying in unsheltered locations in the North Side in October 2022. An additional 18% (N=21) were staying Downtown (central business district) and 18% (N=21) in South Side Flats (Figure 3).
  • In the most recent quarter for which we have employment data (April–June of 2022), fewer than 17% (N=25) of these individuals had any formal employment (defined as being in an Unemployment Insurance (UI)-covered job). Among this population, the most recent median quarterly earnings were just under $2,000 (See Figure 4, Figure 5).
  • Among those enrolled in Medicaid (N=129), 70% visited the emergency department in the last year (See Table 4).
  • Among those enrolled in Medicaid (N=129), almost half (43%) had accessed drug and alcohol services in the last year. Opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder were the most common substance use diagnoses among those with a behavioral health claim in the last year (N=86) (See Table 4, Table 5).
  • Among those with a behavioral health claim in the last year (N=86), the most common mental health diagnoses were depressive disorder (N=20), adjustment disorder (N=16) and schizophrenia (N=16) (See Table 6).
  • In the last year, 62% (N=96) of the cohort had criminal justice system involvement. Thirty-eight percent (N=59) had a new criminal filing and 21% (N=32) were on community supervision with Allegheny County Adult Probation. Thirty-five percent of the cohort (N=55) were booked in the Allegheny County jail at some point during the last year (See Table 7).
  • Of the 38% (N=59) with a new criminal filing, the majority (56%, 33) only had low-level (misdemeanor) charges. Sixty-one percent (36) only had one criminal filing and the most common types of crime were property crimes (39%, 23) and drug crimes (34%, 20) (See Table 8).

How is this report being used?

The County is committed to better understanding the needs of its unsheltered population and identifying supports to help them transition to permanent stable housing. It is also committed to identifying programs and supports to help prevent people from experiencing unsheltered homelessness. This brief represents analysis to help support this planning process.