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Women's shelter moves, expands services to homeless=20

Friday, April 28, 2000=20

By Sally Kalson, Post-Gazette Staff Writer=20







After 19 years in a Downtown church basement where cots were hauled out =
each night and put away each morning, Bethlehem Haven for homeless women =
moved this week to a new location in a refurbished, $2.5 million =
building on Fifth Avenue, Uptown.=20


   =20
               Who seeks safe haven?
                  =20
               =20
=20


A moving van delivered office supplies and storage units Wednesday from =
Smithfield United Church to the new space, where donated used beds and =
dressers were already in place. Tonight, women will sleep on the =
premises for the first time.=20

Once enough staff has been hired, Bethlehem Haven at Fifth Avenue =
Commons will be a round-the-clock residence. That means no more having =
to hustle out of the shelter at 8 a.m., rain or shine, freeze or fry.=20

The rest of the building will house an array of support programs, making =
it a one-stop community center for women and men in need of services.=20

The new haven takes up the whole third floor of the 21,000-square foot =
building at 902-904 Fifth Ave., allowing for many things the church =
basement couldn't accommodate.=20

For example, there are now three different stages of shelter. In the =
first stage, women are housed four to a room in doorless cubicles with =
linoleum floors. As they advance toward greater independence, they move =
into double rooms and, finally, private ones with doors, carpeting and =
dressers.=20

"It's an incentive," said Marilyn Sullivan, Bethlehem Haven's executive =
director. "They know if they work hard they will be rewarded."=20

Another touch is a small, closed smoking room with suction fans, a =
recognition of the tobacco habit that is common among the homeless =
population.=20

The building, formerly Chatham Sports Center, had been vacant for almost =
a decade before Bethlehem Haven took the lead on its transformation, =
launching a capital campaign supported by foundations, corporations, =
private donors and government grants.=20

The result is a clean, well-lit and efficient space designed by =
architect Richard Keller, who also designed Sojourner House and =
Graffiti.=20

Everything the women need will be under one roof, and many of the =
programs will be open to men as well. They include:=20

 A health and wellness center with medical, psychiatric and social =
services.=20

 WellSpring Drop-In Center offering counseling, job training and =
placement, educational classes, art therapy, a commercial kitchen, =
recreation, recovery groups, library, laundry, showers and lockers, =
cottage industry development and programs for music and theater arts.=20

 A family reunification program run by Renaissance Center.=20

 Rosebud Restaurant/Deli, operated by Robin Hernandez, which will serve =
the public and provide job training.=20

Also renting space will be POWER (Pennsylvania Organization for Women in =
Recovery), the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, Vietnam Veteran's Leadership =
Program and the Urban League.=20

The main entrance to Fifth Avenue Commons is not on Fifth Avenue, but =
rather from the rear alley, Watson Way. That was done to help settle a =
lawsuit by neighbors who feared the new building's clients would lower =
their property values.=20

As a result, only the restaurant will front on Fifth Avenue.=20

"This location is fabulous for us," said Sullivan, who'd also scouted =
the Strip District and cultural district. "They told us to keep moving." =


Now the shelter is close to Robert Morris College, Duquesne University, =
Connelley Technical Institute and Adult Education Center, Mercy and St. =
Francis hospitals -- all either partners, training grounds or potential =
employers.=20

On average, about 500 women a year use the shelter -- about 20 to 30 on =
any given night. They range in age from 18 to 80 something, but most are =
in their childbearing years. About 40 percent have children younger than =
18, but the shelter cannot accommodate them, so they live with extended =
family members or in foster care. Some of the mothers have lost custody, =
but there have also been success stories in which women regained control =
of their lives and got their children back.=20

When Bethlehem Haven first opened in 1981, no one thought homelessness =
was going to become a permanent part of the local landscape.=20

But Pennsylvania's welfare reform, the spread of crack cocaine and =
de-institutionalizing people with mental illness without providing =
adequate places for them to live all played a part in what became an =
intractable problem, Sullivan said.=20

"We're dealing with mental illness, drug addiction, skill deficits and =
poverty in general," she said. "People who become homeless have one or =
more of those conditions. And a lot of women who are addicts have sexual =
abuse in their childhoods.=20

"A lot of people have a bootstrap mentality about homelessness. They =
think people could get on track if they wanted to. But no can overcome =
so many obstacles alone. They need a lot of help in many areas, and now =
we're going to be able to give it to them."


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Women's shelter moves, expands = services to=20 homeless

Friday, April 28, 2000=20

By Sally Kalson, Post-Gazette Staff Writer=20

After 19 years in a Downtown church basement where cots were hauled = out each=20 night and put away each morning, Bethlehem Haven for = homeless=20 women moved this week to a new location in a refurbished, $2.5 million = building=20 on Fifth Avenue, Uptown.=20

 
 
Wh= o=20 seeks safe haven?

   
 
 

A moving van delivered office supplies and storage units Wednesday = from=20 Smithfield United Church to the new space, where donated used beds and = dressers=20 were already in place. Tonight, women will sleep on the premises for the = first=20 time.=20

Once enough staff has been hired, Bethlehem Haven at Fifth Avenue = Commons=20 will be a round-the-clock residence. That means no more having to hustle = out of=20 the shelter at 8 a.m., rain or shine, freeze or fry.=20

The rest of the building will house an array of support programs, = making it a=20 one-stop community center for women and men in need of services.=20

The new haven takes up the whole third floor of the 21,000-square = foot=20 building at 902-904 Fifth Ave., allowing for many things the church = basement=20 couldn't accommodate.=20

For example, there are now three different stages of shelter. In the = first=20 stage, women are housed four to a room in doorless cubicles with = linoleum=20 floors. As they advance toward greater independence, they move into = double rooms=20 and, finally, private ones with doors, carpeting and dressers.=20

"It's an incentive," said Marilyn Sullivan, Bethlehem = Haven's=20 executive director. "They know if they work hard they will be=20 rewarded."=20

Another touch is a small, closed smoking room with suction fans, a=20 recognition of the tobacco habit that is common among the homeless = population.=20

The building, formerly Chatham Sports Center, had been vacant for = almost a=20 decade before Bethlehem Haven took the lead on its transformation, = launching a=20 capital campaign supported by foundations, corporations, private donors = and=20 government grants.=20

The result is a clean, well-lit and efficient space designed by = architect=20 Richard Keller, who also designed Sojourner House and Graffiti.=20

Everything the women need will be under one roof, and many of the = programs=20 will be open to men as well. They include:=20

=20 A health and wellness center with medical, psychiatric and social = services.=20

=20 WellSpring Drop-In Center offering counseling, job training and = placement,=20 educational classes, art therapy, a commercial kitchen, recreation, = recovery=20 groups, library, laundry, showers and lockers, cottage industry = development and=20 programs for music and theater arts.=20

=20 A family reunification program run by Renaissance Center.=20

=20 Rosebud Restaurant/Deli, operated by Robin Hernandez, which will serve = the=20 public and provide job training.=20

Also renting space will be POWER (Pennsylvania Organization for Women = in=20 Recovery), the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, Vietnam Veteran's Leadership = Program=20 and the Urban League.=20

The main entrance to Fifth Avenue Commons is not on Fifth Avenue, but = rather=20 from the rear alley, Watson Way. That was done to help settle a lawsuit = by=20 neighbors who feared the new building's clients would lower their = property=20 values.=20

As a result, only the restaurant will front on Fifth Avenue.=20

"This location is fabulous for us," said Sullivan, who'd = also=20 scouted the Strip District and cultural district. "They told us to = keep=20 moving."=20

Now the shelter is close to Robert Morris College, Duquesne = University,=20 Connelley Technical Institute and Adult Education Center, Mercy and St. = Francis=20 hospitals -- all either partners, training grounds or potential = employers.=20

On average, about 500 women a year use the shelter -- about 20 to 30 = on any=20 given night. They range in age from 18 to 80 something, but most are in = their=20 childbearing years. About 40 percent have children younger than 18, but = the=20 shelter cannot accommodate them, so they live with extended family = members or in=20 foster care. Some of the mothers have lost custody, but there have also = been=20 success stories in which women regained control of their lives and got = their=20 children back.=20

When Bethlehem Haven first opened in 1981, no one thought = homelessness was=20 going to become a permanent part of the local landscape.=20

But Pennsylvania's welfare reform, the spread of crack cocaine and=20 de-institutionalizing people with mental illness without providing = adequate=20 places for them to live all played a part in what became an intractable = problem,=20 Sullivan said.=20

"We're dealing with mental illness, drug addiction, skill = deficits and=20 poverty in general," she said. "People who become homeless = have one or=20 more of those conditions. And a lot of women who are addicts have sexual = abuse=20 in their childhoods.=20

"A lot of people have a bootstrap mentality about homelessness. = They=20 think people could get on track if they wanted to. But no can overcome = so many=20 obstacles alone. They need a lot of help in many areas, and now we're = going to=20 be able to give it to them."

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