DISRUPTING THE CYCLE of trauma for those experiencing homelessness requires a combination of support measures including affordable housing, medical treatment, job training, education, counseling.
And time. For some individuals, addressing the trauma that brought them to an unhoused state could span years.
Since 2007, Bethlehem Haven has maintained a facility at 1410 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood that offers long-term housing and an array of restorative services for women with disabilities and mental health issues.
That facility will undergo a full renovation during the coming months as Bethlelem Haven expands its “wrap-around” approach to helping residents achieve sustainable self-sufficiency. Mosites Construction & Development Co. has completed the site clean-out and some preliminary pre-demolition.
This Wednesday, Oct. 25, the public is invited to get a first glimpse of the planned renovations at the “Legacy-Making Housewarming Gala” at Hotel Monaco, 620 William Penn Place in Downtown Pittsburgh.
A 6 p.m. reception honoring longtime Bethlehem Haven board member John Lovelace is followed by a 7-10 p.m. party and program. Tickets run from $175 to $300 and are available here.
Funds raised will help provide furnishings and home essentials for the residential rooms and shared living spaces, says Kate Colligan, Bethlehem Haven director of development and communication.
“We’ve teamed with Catherine Montague, founder and principal designer of Montague Design, to source the soft furnishings, storage and other decor elements that give residents a sense of dignity.”
In keeping with the housewarming theme, Colligan notes, there is a registry where patrons can purchase individual items such as lamps, pillows, robes, towels and bedding. Individuals or groups also can underwrite a room.
Bethlehem Haven was founded in 1981 and is part of the Pittsburgh Mercy system of care. Its three locations provide shelter, housing and supportive services to 1,500 women a year.
According to Bethlehem Haven executive director Annette Fetchko, the 1410 Fifth Avenue renovation is a critical step in adapting to recent changes in who becomes unhoused in Allegheny County.
“Today, about 50% of the women we’re privileged to serve are over the age of 55 and have never experienced homelessness before,” she said on a recent Hope & Truth podcast. “The other 50% are women who have cycled through homelessness, cycled through sheltering environments. To bring those two populations of women together we needed to completely relearn how to manage the needs of these individuals in a congregate setting.”
The solution is Bethlehem Haven’s Permanent Supportive Residential Program that aids women with critical mental health and physical disabilities who would otherwise be homeless.
“We’re failing when we put people in shelters without support,” Fetchko asserts. “It’s important to meet individuals where they are and help them move forward.”