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.”




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


increase of those chronically homeless in Allegheny County since 2021


of the current homeless population is made up by women


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


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


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


Bad choices led someone to become homeless.


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.


All homeless people are dangerous.


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.


People who are homeless should just find a job.


Challenges like lacking a permanent address, limited access to showers, transportation issues, and mental health struggles make it hard to secure employment. Even when homeless individuals find jobs, they're often low-paying, failing to cover the high cost of housing. At Light of Life, we see many homeless individuals who are employed but still face eviction due to rising rent prices and insufficient income.


Adding more low-barrier shelters will solve homelessness.


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.


People choose to be homeless.


People lose jobs, leading to homelessness. Women flee domestic violence. Many battle mental illness, depression, or post-traumatic stress and need extra support. Those facing eviction or release from prison must become homeless before accessing county resources, often waiting a year or more for housing support.



We believe everyone we serve has a unique story that deserves to be heard to find a solution. Understanding their specific needs is the first step in providing hope, healing, and a life intended for them.

No matter where someone is in their homelessness journey, we aim to offer a next step towards sobriety, education, employment, and housing. At Light of Life, we are dedicated to understanding each individual’s needs and addressing the root cause of their homelessness to provide resources and solutions with the transformative love of Christ.

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