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. 

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.

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

This dashboard shows trends in the number of people experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness.

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 2022, 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 dating back to September 2021. 

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.

Current Dashboard

What is this dashboard about?

These interactive dashboards contain information about Landlord/Tenant cases filed in Allegheny County in magisterial district courts from 2012 to the present. Users can see information about the number of cases filed over time, what happens to those cases as they proceed through the courts, how long it takes for cases to proceed through the courts, costs and case outcomes. The data do not record whether an eviction took place (e.g., tenant moved, tenant was ejected) at the end of the case.  The data used for these dashboards are updated daily.

How is this dashboard being used?

With the lifting of the eviction moratorium and phasing out of the emergency rental assistance program, landlord/tenant filings have increased back to pre-COVID levels.  The county is using this information to help target investments that help mediate these conflicts in the hopes of reducing the number of people who ultimately get evicted. 

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

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 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.