Understanding the Problem

Becoming homeless is not always what you think. Everyone’s story is unique and deserves to be heard.

“I was sexually abused at the age of 13. After trying to cope with the trauma by turning to substance abuse, I found myself lost, depressed and I knew I wanted to get clean.”

“Even though I have full time employment making minimum wage, it wasn’t enough to cover bills after my rent increased. After being evicted and not finding any affordable housing options, I was left staying at shelters while continuing to work full time.”

“By the time I reached my teenage years I had already been in and out of multiple psychiatric facilities. I stopped going to school, and at that point my mental health issues had emerged significantly. I ended up homeless living in a tent.”

“I am a full-time college student in downtown Pittsburgh and have a job at a local restaurant to pay for my tuition. I am determined to get my degree in hopes of having a better future, but I have to choose between paying for classes or paying for housing. I’ve been living in and out of my car for a year and a half.”

“I was sexually abused as child. I turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. I didn’t know what my purpose was.”

THE FACTS

ALLEGHENY COUNTY’S HOMELESS POPULATION HAS INCREASED BY 27% SINCE 2021.

32%

of Allegheny County’s homeless have been diagnosed with a mental health condition

491.67%

increase of those chronically homeless in Allegheny County since 2021

37%

of the current homeless population is made up by women

2,836

homeless children were reported for the 2020-2021 school year in Allegheny County

38%

of domestic violence victims become homeless at some point in their lives

267

evictions per week on average are reported in Allegheny County

What does homelessness look like for Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable?

For Mark, it was being evicted after his rent increased due to economic inflation caused by the pandemic. Although Mark has full-time employment making minimum wage, there were no other low-income housing options available, forcing him to live on the street. Michael turned to Light of Life’s Shelter+ services to assist with emergency shelter while continuing to keep his employment. *According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, Pittsburgh faces a deficit of 37,000 affordable houses for low-income workers.

For Rebecca, it was escaping domestic abuse and running from her abuser. Faced with living out of her car, Rebecca and her children were exposed to extremely cold temperatures during winter months and turned to Light of Life’s Women & Children’s Shelter seeking emergency services for herself and her two children. *Women and children are the fastest growing homeless population, making up 57% of Allegheny County’s homeless population (37% women and 20% children, respectively).

For Henry, it was witnessing multiple traumatic events at a young age, creating mental health issues and turning to substance abuse to cope with his past. Because of his mental illness, Henry found himself in and out of jobs most of his life and living on the street before turning to Light of Life to join the Mental Health Program. *Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) are traumatic events experienced during childhood and are linked to increased chances of a child becoming homeless later in life.

Myths Vs. Truth

Myth

Bad choices led someone to become homeless.

Truth

People face homelessness for a variety of reasons, and some of the most common include suffering from a mental health condition, lack of affordable housing, and addiction. In Pittsburgh, there are only 37 low-income houses available for every 100 low-income renters. Simply put, there is nowhere to live.

Myth

All homeless people are dangerous.

Truth

People experiencing homelessness are far more likely to be the victims of crimes than the perpetrators. The vulnerability of homelessness increases the risk of being victimized. One study found that half of the homeless people surveyed reported experiencing violence, and the risks were higher for people who were older, women, or those who were homeless for more than two years. Stable housing is key to safety.

Myth

People experiencing homelessness should just find a job.

Truth

It is much more difficult to find a job while experiencing homelessness. Several different challenges, such as lacking a permanent address, not having regular access to showers, barriers to transportation, and other difficulties like mental illness, make it difficult to obtain employment. Even when individuals experiencing homelessness find jobs, they are often part-time or minimum wage positions. This work fails to adequately meet their needs, due to expensive housing costs. There are a number of individuals we serve at Light of Life who are experiencing homelessness but are actually employed. Because of their income level and the lack of affordable housing, they often face eviction as the rent in their area continues to increase.

Myth

Adding more low-barrier shelters will solve homelessness.

Truth

Our belief is housing-first only works for about 25% of the homeless population. For the other 75%, individuals need wrap-around services that can address their unique situations that led them to becoming homeless to begin with.

Myth

People choose to be homeless.

Truth

People lose jobs and then housing. Women run away to escape domestic violence. Many struggle with mental illness, depression, post-traumatic stress, or simply cannot cope with trauma in their lives and need additional support. For those who know they will soon become homeless due to an eviction or being released from prison, an individual must first become homeless before requesting help from county resources. Many wait up to a year or longer before receiving housing support through the system.

OUR SOLUTION

IN 2023, LIGHT OF LIFE SERVED OVER 3,000 UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS EXPERIENCING HOUSING OR FOOD INSECURITY.

We believe everyone we serve has a unique story that deserves to be heard in order to find a solution to help them get out of their current situation. The tributaries of homelessness are complex, but having a deeper understanding of someone’s specific needs is the first step in providing them hope, healing, and a life God intended for them to live.

No matter where someone is in their journey with homelessness, we want to have a next step for them towards sobriety, education, employment, and housing. At Light of Life, we are dedicated to understanding the unique needs of each individual and addressing the root cause of why they became homeless in the first place in order to provide them resources and solutions while walking alongside them with the transformative love of Christ.

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