Allegheny County Discounted Fares Pilot Program

Current Plan and Related Documents

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) partnered with Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) to launch a new transportation assistance program in November 2022 called the Discounted Fares Pilot. This program offered free and reduced-price PRT rides for county residents ages 18 to 64 who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, along with their 6- to 17-year-old children. The fare discounts were allocated using a lottery. Each household in the pilot was randomly assigned to one of three groups, each with equal probability. One group received unlimited free PRT trips, a second group received a 50% discount on all PRT trips, and a third group received no discount. The fare discounts lasted for at least 12 months for the free-fare and half-fare groups.  

What is this report about?

This report first describes the results from the first year of the pilot.  It describes the design of the pilot, the characteristics of the participants and provides estimates of the causal impact of the fare discounts on travel behavior and health care utilization.  It also reports on impacts on self-reported outcomes related to employment, financial stability, and well-being.

What are the takeaways?

  • A total of 9,544 adults and 4,928 children enrolled in the Pilot during the three-month open enrollment period. The majority of adult participants were female (72%) and Black (59%). Participants reported taking an average of ten PRT trips per week and spending an average of nearly $30 on public transportation per week at the time they enrolled in the Pilot.
  • Most participants successfully received their Pilot-issued farecard and used the card at least one time. 90 percent of adults in the free-fares group tapped their assigned farecard at least once. 82 percent of the half-fares group and 81 percent of the no-discount group tapped their farecard at least once. The majority of farecard non-users likely never received their assigned card.
  • Larger fare discounts resulted in greater use of Pilot-issued farecards. Participants in the half-fares group tapped their assigned farecards an average of 1.6 more times per week than the no-discount group. Participants in the free-fares group tapped their assigned farecards an average of 3.3 more times per week than the half-fare group. 
  • The fare discounts yielded improvements in certain measures of financial savings and transportation security. In particular, the free fares reduced self-reported weekly spending on PRT trips by more than $17 relative to no discount while there was an $8.92 decrease in weekly spending on average for the 50% discount group. Free fares led to a 26 percentage-point decrease, while 50% discounts resulted in a 10 percentage-point drop in the self-reported likelihood of missing work or other appointments in the past four weeks due to transportation issues.
  • Discounted fares had limited effects on health care utilization, with no clear patterns emerging in terms of increased or decreased use of care. The fare discounts had no discernible impact on participants’ likelihood of receiving Medicaid-funded health care in the first 270 days after they enrolled in the Pilot.

How is this being used? 

DHS is using the Pilot results to better understand the ways that low-income households may benefit from reduced PRT fares. We will continue to refine our understanding by analyzing longer-term outcomes and by incorporating insights from qualitative interviews that were conducted with a subset of participants. These findings will be shared in a future publication.

DHS has also used the preliminary Pilot results to inform the design and implementation of a longer-term program that will offer a 50% PRT discount for working-age county SNAP beneficiaries and their children. This new program, called Allegheny Go, is scheduled to launch in June 2024.

Other information

Research Plan

Each year, Allegheny County participates in a national census, required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), of the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night. The Point-in-Time count enumerates people experiencing homelessness in the County who are sheltered (residing in emergency shelters), unsheltered (residing in places not meant for human habitation) or participating in a short-term, supportive housing program (transitional and safe haven).

While the Point-in-Time count allows for annual comparisons, DHS also maintains a real-time dashboard that tracks the daily number of people in emergency shelters and a weekly count of people known to be experiencing unsheltered homelessness based on their engagement with street outreach teams. 

What are the key takeaways from the 2024 count?

  • On January 30, 2024, in Allegheny County, 1,026 individuals were staying in emergency shelters or experiencing unsheltered homelessness (compared to 913 in 2023).  
    • 857 were staying in emergency shelters (84% of overall count)  
    • 169 were unsheltered (16% of overall count)  
  • An increase in the number of individuals staying in emergency shelter (+99) is largely responsible for the increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the 2024 count. 
  • The number of individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness increased (+14) since 2023, but the percent increase of 8% is smaller than the year-over-year increases in 2022 and 2023, which were 62% and 48%, respectively. 
  • Adult-only households differ from adult-child households both demographically and in how they access and use shelter, which is why we look at these populations separately in this year’s brief. 
  • Among individuals in adult-only households (n=702): 
    • The majority (76%) were staying in shelters. 
    • Men were overrepresented in both sheltered (64%) and unsheltered (66%) locations. 
    • White adults were more likely to be unsheltered (57%) than adults of other races, but Black adults were overrepresented in shelters and in unsheltered locations, as Black individuals make up only 14% of the County’s population. 
    • The unsheltered adult population skewed slightly younger than those who were in shelter; a third of sheltered adults were 55+ (vs. 13% of those unsheltered). 
    • Veterans made up a small percentage of both the sheltered (7%) and unsheltered (5%) populations.  
    • There were 30 adult survivors of domestic violence in shelter (6%); in surveys, an additional three unsheltered individuals mentioned intimate partner violence as a factor leading to their homelessness. 
  • Among the 324 individuals in adult-child households, all of whom were staying in shelter: 
    • Women/girls were overrepresented (61%), skewed by female-headed households. 
    • Black individuals were significantly overrepresented, at nearly 70% of those in family shelters. 
    • There were 93 unique households and they tended to be younger families; most adults were under 45 and 60% of the family shelter population was under 18. 
    • Almost a quarter of adults staying in family shelter were survivors of intimate partner violence.

How are these reports used?

The data collected during the yearly Point-in-time is submitted to HUD, to create a yearly homelessness assessment report presented to congress. For more information, visit the HUD website on the Point-in-Time Count, linked here.

Allegheny County uses the yearly data as a component of its work to understand trends and needs, informing the County’s strategies to reduce homelessness and better serve those experiencing it.

Previous Reports in this series

DHS Goals and Key Initiatives: 2024

Current information

DHS has set five goals to guide us and our partners in serving our community well. We aim for our network for human services to improve access to care, prevent overuse of coercive services, prevent harm, increase economic security and ensure quality.

What is this report about?

DHS can reach our goals more quickly if we devote time and attention to several big, bold initiatives that will make our systems and our organization work better for everyone we serve. This document outlines our key initiatives in 2024—which are in addition to our core work of running effective systems of care for people.

DHS 2023 Accomplishments

Current information

County human services includes programs from over 300 community-based agencies and is delivered by social workers, peers, and outreach staff working all throughout the county. These staff run out-of-school-time programs, answer hotlines, investigate reports of potential harm to children and vulnerable adults, deliver meals to seniors and run Senior Centers, make home visits to families with newborns, and do the administrative work that makes our human services run efficiently.

What is this report about?

This report highlights the 2023 accomplishments that stood out. There are many, many other achievements that people told us about. We chose the ones that made the biggest difference.

Current Information

Allegheny County DHS sends text messages to county residents for a variety of reasons, including increasing awareness of services, providing timely reminders, and gathering feedback after a service experience.  In addition, DHS uses this information to help evaluate and monitor programs it delivers.  This dashboard displays information about these outreach and engagement efforts, including the subject and purpose of these and the rates of engagement.  Data on DHS’s texting efforts are available from November 2017 to the present.

The dashboard allows users to examine DHS text messaging as a whole as well as drill down to individual text campaigns.  It allows users to understand the purpose of each campaign, the number of messages sent and the demographics of the people being contacted by each campaign.  DHS collects this information through Community Connect Labs (CCL), DHS’s texting software, and information is updated daily. Click here for a more detailed report on DHS’s texting outreach from 2018-2022.

In Allegheny County, a network of shelters provides temporary places to stay for people experiencing homelessness. Allegheny County’s emergency shelter network includes facilities that serve only adults and others that offer spaces to families with children or other dependents (family shelters).

This data brief focuses on the group of approximately 598 people in 184 households that enrolled in one of six family shelters at least once from April 2022 through March 2023. People are eligible for family shelters if they are 1) an adult with a minor child(ren) or a child over 18 years old still enrolled in high school, 2) a woman or couple without a minor child where the woman is in her third trimester of pregnancy, or 3) a couple unable to separate or parent with an adult child where one is caregiving for the other.

See the related data briefs, “People Using Adult-Only Emergency Shelters in Allegheny County” and “People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness in Allegheny County for descriptions of other people served in the homeless system

  • Ninety percent (N=165) of heads of household who used family shelters were female and Black individuals were over-represented – 77% of heads of households were Black, but Black individuals only make up 14% of the county. Most households (71%) consisted of an adult female head of household and one or more children. Forty-nine percent of children (N=179) were age 5 or younger at the time they entered a family shelter. An additional 35% were ages 6 through 12 and 16% were ages 13 through 17.
  • Most families had not recently used the shelter system and only stayed once. 84% of families only used shelter once during this period and only 6% had used a shelter or County housing program in the year prior to their first stay.
  • Although half of families stayed in shelter for more than two months, the largest group of families exited within a week of entering. Seventy-nine percent (N=153) of all stays resulted in households exiting to stable housing, which includes a County housing program (32%), housing with family or friends (27%), or an owned or rented property (19%). An additional 19% exited to another shelter.
  • Income is limited for heads of household using family shelters. 70% (N=129) of heads of household self-reported income from any source, with an average monthly income of $923. Additionally, DHS was able to access Pennsylvania Labor and Industry information for 171 individuals in this cohort (93%). Of these heads of household, 47% (N=81) had earnings, with an average monthly income of $1,243.
  • About a third of Medicaid-enrolled heads of household used behavioral health services, most of which were mental health outpatient services. The most common diagnosis was acute stress disorder (30% of people with a diagnosis), a short-term mental health condition that can occur within the first months after experiencing a traumatic event.
  • Asthma was the most common chronic condition for Medicaid-enrolled children using shelter and the second most common for heads of household. Asthma rates for both are twice as high as those in the general Medicaid-enrolled population in the County
  • Fifteen percent of families using these shelters had an active child welfare case in the year prior to their stay. This could indicate the need for additional support and safety nets within the child welfare system or as families transition out of it.

Emergency shelters are meant to be short-term accommodations 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. 

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.

Information for DHS contracted providers

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.

DHS Annual Plans and Budgets

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

Access the report

The Intimate Partner Violence Reform Initiative was created in May 2022 to coordinate policy and system-level work across agencies in Allegheny County to improve a complex and fragmented system for both survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) and those who use violence.

Stakeholders from local and federal criminal justice systems, victim service organizations, community groups, healthcare and human services are working to improve the ways in which people can access help, how our systems work together and share information, and how we can prevent the most serious harm. This report outlines the progress made in the first year of the initiative, as well as plans and priorities to continue these reform efforts.

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.

Intimate partner homicides: 2017-2022

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.

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.