Current Plan and Related Documents

Overview: 

This pilot will examine how lowering the cost of public transportation affects individuals’ travel patterns, employment and earnings, healthcare utilization, and other socioeconomic outcomes. We will provide discounted public transportation fares to a sample of households in Allegheny County who are currently receiving or have recently received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Analysis: 

Researchers will evaluate the effects of the reduced fares using the data collected over the duration of the pilot. The random assignment study design will enable the researchers to estimate the causal effects of the reduced fares by comparing participants’ outcomes between the three discount levels. 

ACDHS and associated stakeholders will receive periodic reports detailing the research findings, and a final report will be made publicly available. 

Eviction Cases in Allegheny County

Allegheny County Department of Human Services and The Pittsburgh Foundation wanted to learn more about evictions in the region: How many eviction cases are filed each year, and for how much money? How many cases are filed against low-income tenants? And how many cases do tenants win in comparison to landlords? This report describes the available data about landlord–tenant cases in Allegheny County from 2012 to 2019 and the quantitative insights we have been able to learn from it.

In addition to the report, a guide to the evictions process has been developed by the Pennsylvania Housing Alliance to help demystify the steps.

What were the takeaways?

  • Thirteen thousand to 14,000 residential eviction cases are filed each year in Allegheny County.
  • In 2019, the average amount claimed by landlords was $2,029. While the number of cases filed has been fairly stable from year to year, the amount of money claimed increased 35% during the period of the study, closely tracking the increase in median rent of defendants in eviction cases.
  • A disproportionate number of cases are filed against low-income tenants living in publicly subsidized housing.
  • Fewer than 1% of tenants have attorneys in landlord–tenant cases. The number of cases in which landlords are represented by legal counsel is also small but has been rising steadily, from 3% in 2012 to 7% in 2019.
  • Landlords win about 85% of cases. Tenants win around 1.5% of cases, with the remaining cases withdrawn, settled or dismissed.
  • Seventy-three percent of landlord–tenant cases filed are for overdue rent alone, as opposed to lease violations or the term of a lease ending.

 

What is this report about?

Each year, Allegheny County participates in a federally required national effort to count the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. Allegheny County also performs a supplemental count in the summer. The Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count enumerates the sheltered (residing in emergency homeless shelters or transitional housing programs) and unsheltered (residing in places not meant for human habitation) homeless population within the County.

What are the key takeaways from the 2022 count?

  • The total count was higher in the winter of 2022 by 188 individuals. In January of 2021, 692 individuals were experiencing homelessness, compared to 880 in 2022.
  • The number of households with children increased by 12 from 2021 to 2022; adult-only households increased by 124.
  • The increases in 2022 may be partially attributed to significantly warmer weather in 2022, more shelter beds available in 2022, and a well-organized count.

How are these reports used?

Allegheny County will continue to conduct PIT counts, working to improve the accuracy of the count. And in particular, the count of people in unsheltered locations by assessing and expanding the locations that street outreach teams visit.

The data collected during the yearly PIT 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 to understand the shelter conditions of the homeless population more holistically, and make recommendations around allocation of homeless and housing services.

What are these reports about?

Nationally and locally, policymakers and practitioners are interested in the people who frequently use publicly funded services, particularly crisis services. Most people who use crisis services do so infrequently during a year. A small number of people, however, use crisis services frequently, and sometimes they use more than one type of crisis service.

Allegheny County’s rich integrated data allows us to look at the people who use crisis services. This report summarizes key findings about the people who were involved with one or more of the following four crisis services in the years 2016 through 2017: hospital emergency departments, emergency homeless shelters, mental health crisis programs, and the criminal justice system. This summary report will be followed up by reports examining each of these four service areas in more detail.

What are the takeaways?

  • Of the people who used at least one of the four crisis services examined, 6% (10,655) met the definition of frequent users in at least one system. They accounted for 26% of all service episodes during this period.
  • There is little overlap between frequent utilizers of one type of crisis service and another. Just 9% of users were frequent in multiple systems. This does not mean they didn’t use other services, just that they were not frequent users of those systems.
  • Nonetheless, 26% of frequent users of mental health crisis services were also frequent users of hospital emergency departments, indicating that the emergency room might be a point of intervention for people in mental health crisis.
  • All frequent users of emergency shelter were connected to other human services prior to their first shelter stay during this period. This overlap suggests that although frequent utilizers of emergency shelters were connected to supports, the reasons behind people’s continued use of shelter were not adequately addressed through the services they were receiving.

Black residents are using crisis services at disproportionately high rates, and the disproportionality is more pronounced when looking at frequent utilizers. While 13% of the Allegheny County population is Black, 42% of people who used crisis systems (both frequent and non-frequent) were Black, and 49% of frequent utilizers were Black.

How is this report used?

This work is meant to be exploratory and descriptive in nature to help continue and expand the conversation about how we look at frequent utilizers and potential interventions going forward. By looking more closely at this population of frequent utilizers, we hope to gain insight into their needs, identify key intervention points, and find ways to encourage long-term wellness while reducing the need for repeat intense service usage.

Where can I go for more information?

For questions or suggestions, please reach out to DHS-Research@alleghenycounty.us

This report explores the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment in Allegheny County. It uses data from Pennsylvania Unemployment Insurance records. We examined the employment, earnings and unemployment benefits of working-age clients of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) from July 2019 through September 2020. This analysis sheds light on how some of Allegheny County’s neediest workers fared in the months preceding and following the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

What are the takeaways?

  • DHS clients have persistent difficulty maintaining work and earning enough money to support themselves. Working-age clients had employment rates between 34 and 38 percent and quarterly earnings around $4,000 prior to the onset of COVID-19.
  • DHS clients’ employment and earnings decreased markedly during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but began to rebound back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of September 2020. These trends paralleled the countywide situation.

How is this report used?

By continuing to investigate our clients’ employment experiences, DHS and its partners can gain insight into the economic challenges of our clients and tailor our services, including education and job-related supports, to better meet clients’ needs.

Needs Assessment of Economic Security

Access the report

From May through August 2021, Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) engaged in a comprehensive needs assessment. The purpose of the assessment was to determine how DHS can best address the needs of individuals and families living in poverty and promote stability and economic security using Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) funds and other flexible funding across the agency. The assessment included collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from community members and service providers.

What are the takeaways?

  • Less than half of survey respondents were satisfied with their ability to meet their family’s everyday basic needs.
  • The incidence of poverty varies widely by family structure, race, ethnicity, education and employment. The rate of poverty is more than double the County average among single mothers, Black and multiracial residents, and those with less than a high school degree.
  • Need remains persistently high in McKees Rocks and Stowe, sections of Penn Hills and Wilkinsburg, much of the Monongahela River Valley, and sections of Harrison Township.

What are the Bethesda-Homewood Properties?

The Bethesda-Homewood Properties were subsidized units located in several predominantly Black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh’s East End. In 2017, more than 200 residents of these properties were displaced. A federal subsidy provided to the property owner was being abated because of the owner’s repeated failure to maintain the properties. Residents were effectively forced to move because of the loss of their rental subsidy, but eligible residents were provided housing vouchers and moving cost assistance.

Why did we want to learn more about this housing displacement?

Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) wanted to learn more about the impact of housing displacement on residents of Bethesda-Homewood properties and use the information to inform planning for future mass displacements. This information is especially important in informing racial equity strategies in our region, given that housing displacement disproportionately affects Black residents, with Bethesda-Homewood being no exception.

What did we learn?

In some ways, housing vouchers offered opportunity for residents who moved; displaced residents were theoretically able to choose the location of their new homes. In reality, residents had difficulty finding landlords who would accept their housing vouchers, and the majority of displaced residents continued to live in neighborhoods with relatively high needs even after their relocation. While residents had limited geographic choice when it came to using their vouchers, most were still able to move to neighborhoods with comparatively less gun violence and good access to amenities. Half of those residents who completed a telephone survey reported feeling safer in their current neighborhood.


Related materials

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) overhauled its regulations governing services to people experiencing or at-risk for homelessness. The new guidelines required local agencies operating emergency housing programs to implement a coordinated entry (CE) system to prioritize the most vulnerable clients. The policy emphasized getting clients into stable housing immediately, without preconditions.

While implementing a coordinated entry system was a major shift for Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) and its housing providers, they embraced the challenge, seeing an opportunity to improve equity, efficiency and effectiveness in connecting people to housing and other service interventions. The report describes how DHS established a coordinated entry system and is continuing to utilize data to make improvements in housing prioritization.


Related materials

Recent national and local focus on Veterans who are experiencing homelessness has led to reduction in homelessness in this population. In order to provide more information about these individuals, this report describes Veterans in Allegheny County who received homeless assistance services at least once from 2014 through 2018, including details on demographics, housing program types and involvement with other County services. In order to sustain progress and to further prevent and reduce Veteran homelessness as much as possible, Allegheny County agencies and community partners will benefit from leveraging data to identify patterns in Veteran homelessness, track outcomes and inform  practices for addressing Veterans’ housing needs.

What are the takeaways?

  • The number of Veterans entering homeless assistance programs in Allegheny County declined by 45% from 2014 through 2018. By contrast, non-Veterans saw slight decreases in program entries.
  • Underlying racial disparities in homelessness persisted among Veterans and non-Veterans alike. More than half of Allegheny County Veterans who accessed homeless assistance programs were Black. This proportion is consistent with the racial demographics of all people (Veterans and non-Veterans) who used these types of services in the region.
  • Veterans who left the homeless system after receiving services were found to be slightly less likely than non-Veterans to re-enter the homeless assistance system, suggesting that they were able to find and maintain stable housing.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program offers financial assistance for people struggling to pay rent or utilities due to COVID-19. These dashboards track data about the program, those who have applied, and those who have received funds.

Trouble viewing the dashboard? You can view it directly here.

Community Need Index

What is the Community Need Index?

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) conducts a Community Need Index (CNI) to identify specific areas that are in greater need, and face larger socioeconomic barriers, relative to others. The newest version of the CNI index ranks neighborhoods by need level by looking at:

  • The percentage of families who live below the poverty line
  • The percentage of unemployed males
  • The resident education levels
  • The percentage of single mothers
  • The number of 911 dispatches for gun shots fired

The researchers used a census tract level to break up the region and assess needs. Census tracts are static, relatively small subdivisions of a county.

How can I view the findings?

A storymap presents the findings in an interactive and accessible format. An interactive map allows users to view and extract data from the 2018 CNI. The new report focuses on all of Allegheny County, examines changes in need over time, and places emphasis on the connection between race and community need. Earlier reports are linked below.

What are the takeaways?

  • Levels of need among Allegheny County census tracts have stayed mostly consistent with the previous analysis 5 years ago.
  • 89% of tracts that were high or extreme need within 2009 to 2013 (5-year estimate) were still high or extreme need in this latest report.

How is this report used?

The geographic dimensions of community need can help inform many aspects of DHS’s strategic planning and resource allocation decisions, such as decisions on where to locate Family Centers or new after-school programs.

Where can I go for more information?

For more information, you can read previous reports below. Or you can reach out to DHS-Research@alleghenycounty.us with any questions.


Previous reports in this series 

2014 update (suburbs)
• 2012 update (suburbs)
2000-2009 (suburbs)
2000-2012 (city)

Previous datasets in this series

2014 (suburbs)
2000-2012 (city)

The dashboard below displays information about the performance of homeless system providers in Allegheny County. Dashboard users can select a system-level view or explore particular program types to see how providers are meeting performance benchmarks in areas such as:

  • Shelter bed utilization
  • Exits to permanent housing
  • Completion of client assessments

We use these metrics in working toward our goal of making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring.

Data comes from the Allegheny County Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and is updated daily.

Having trouble viewing the dashboard? You can view it directly here

 
 

How were performance benchmarks for programs determined?

The benchmarks displayed in the dashboard were determined as part of a performance plan developed by the Continuum of Care Analysis and Planning Committee (CoCAPC) – a subcommittee of the Homeless Advisory Board (HAB) – and Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS). The performance plan and quarterly performance reports can be viewed here.

Input from community members is vital to the work that Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) does. One way that DHS is learning about the community’s needs is by posing questions on a public online feedback platform called Neighborland. DHS is reviewing and summarizing the answers we receive and analyzing the text for common themes. Feedback is being used to inform our planning and programming.

Allegheny County, like many communities across the country, does not have sufficient long-term supportive housing to serve every person or family meeting the criteria for homelessness. Although the County’s Continuum of Care (CoC) includes approximately 210 bridge housing beds, 940 rapid rehousing beds and 1810 supportive housing beds, the demand for housing is greater than the supply. To allocate available housing, the CoC’s coordinated entry system has depended upon a widely adopted but not locally validated actuarial tool that relies upon self-reported information. As part of an ongoing effort to improve decisions at key points in its systems, Allegheny County worked with local stakeholders, research partners (Auckland University of Technology) and data science ethicists (Eticas) to develop the Allegheny Housing Assessment (AHA).

The AHA is a decision support tool designed to help prioritize admissions to supportive housing services for individuals or families experiencing homelessness. 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: a mental health inpatient stay, a jail booking and frequent use (4 or more visits) of hospital emergency rooms.  These events serve as indicators of harm if a person remains unhoused.  Like the previous assessment tool, the AHA assigns a risk score that is used as part of the housing prioritization process, but it is far more accurate and equitable and doesn’t require the time or trauma associated with asking sensitive questions at the time of housing crisis.

Allegheny County and its partners will document the implementation of the AHA and report on the results; a solicitation will be issued for an independent evaluation beginning in 2021. These data will be used not just to better prioritize housing resources but to shed new light on the unmet need for housing for high-risk individuals.

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