Pittsburgh, Allegheny County experience critical shortage of public housing

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Yvonne Smith, 51, waited six months for a low-income apartment.  (Photo by Halle Stockton / PublicSource)

 

A 51-year-old former hotel housekeeper and fast-food worker, Smith lived in at least six shelters and halfway houses over several years. At other times, she roamed among the homes of friends and family. She even stayed in an abusive relationship to keep a roof over her head.

“I stayed with people here and there, from pillar to post,” said Smith, who said she has been sober for nearly three years after decades of addiction to crack and alcohol. Over the years, two of her eight children were taken by state child-protective services and the others grew up with relatives.

“I was tired of living the way I was living,” she said.

After spending nearly two years — the maximum allowed — in a drug recovery program at Bethlehem Haven’s transitional housing in Pittsburgh, she applied for low-income public housing in the city.

Smith was initially denied because she had served probation on a prostitution charge in 2008; she requested a grievance hearing and a hearing officer ruled in her favor.

About six months later, she was told a one-bedroom apartment was available in the Northview Heights building in the North Side.

“I was ecstatic,” she said. “I was so happy I cried.”

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Yvonne Smith gazes out the window of her one-bedroom apartment. “Mainly I just sit in my bed, look out my window and say, ‘Thank you, God.’” (Photo by Halle Stockton / PublicSource)

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