Exchange skills, learn for free

At our monthly community meeting last night we had a visitor who told us about a cool idea to connect people and share skills.  Ben Paul, a Pitt student, got a Sprout grant to set up CommuniTeach, a website and organization where you can sign up, list your skills, and link up to other people who have skills that you’d like to learn.

And it’s absolutely free! This is a community-building, people-connecting thing, not a for-profit thing.  This is an experiment in getting people together and sharing knowledge.  If this sounds interesting, check out the CommuniTeach website, or email ben@communiteach.com.

If you want to test out the idea, start small, with friends, in your neighborhood.  At the community meeting, several people said they’d like to learn how to play the guitar–and a few people said they knew how to do that.  We’ve already had some knowledge-sharing acitivity in Polish Hill.  Last month, an older resident welcomed a new arrival  into her kitchen and taught her how to make paczki (a Polish treat similar to a filled donut).  Another resident gave free knitting lessons.  Imagine if we could expand this!  CommuniTeach is a useful tool because they have a setup where you can list your skills and connect with others.  We think this is a good idea and hope that this summer will be a time when lots of residents learn how to do new stuff!

Assistance for our elders

A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette has raised the awareness of the fragility of our senior population during times of duress. A resident here in Polish Hill was in dire need of assistance in getting basic needs met. The kindness of  James Gambrell and his coworkers at the Oakland Postal Station were timely and very much appreciated. The PHCA has been made aware that another neighbor has been assisting with property and utility issues for this particular elder. We have such nice neighbors here in Polish Hill.

A number of our neighbors here in Polish Hill are in their senior years. Maybe you are one of them or maybe you have a talking over the fence, passing the time of day, relationship with a senior neighbor. If you do, you might want to pass some information on to them. It might not save their life, but it might make their quality of life much better.

The central point of contact for aging-related services through the state and county is SeniorLine, a phone line that connects you to services such as senior center activities, care management, home health and many others. One pertinent point that you should know is that it can take months before a determination of eligibility for assistance is reached. Even though an elder citizen is not in immediate need, it might be best to at least register for the service so that you are already in the system. Processing eligibility will be much simpler for emergency services if the agency already has a history with an applicant. Call 412-350-5460 or email SeniorLine@dhs.county.allegheny.pa.us. Many thanks to Senator Ferlo’s staff for providing this information. Visit the website

Another source for basic assistance is the Jubilee Kitchen, which provides foodstuffs to individuals. This can take the form of canned and boxed food. The organization delivers to the door, which is a great boon for individuals whose transportation is limited to walking and public transportation. Call Jubilee Kitchen at 412-261-5417.

Another provider for assistance is Meals on Wheels. Through this program, hot food is delivered on a daily basis to your home. You can speak directly with the provider for Polish Hill at 412-392-4450. Providers vary by neighborhood, but you can check here for your nearest provider.

One other thing that bears mentioning: some of these programs require that you register in person so that they can verify your age. Mostly, this is done at your local senior center, where a coordinator can also assist you in finding any additional programs that you may need.

54C still not running through Polish Hill

The 54C to Penn/Main is running, but isn’t doing the loop up into Polish Hill.   If you really need to catch the bus, be prepared for a very difficult walk down to Liberty.  Many sections of sidewalk have not been cleared.  Walking in the road is dangerous–there isn’t much space and cars are sliding.

Check here for bus service information.

Here is updated information on school closings.

The PHCA office will open on Tuesday as usual.  We welcome visitors!

Free services provided through Sen. Ferlo's local office


State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) today reminded constituents about services provided through his local district office staff free of charge.

“Part of my responsibility as an elected official is to provide quality, helpful service to local citizens,” Ferlo said.  “Apart from being open to their ideas and input on legislation and government issues, I want my constituents to have knowledge of and access to the wide range of available government programs and services.”

Some useful documents found at Ferlo’s district offices include PACE/PACENET and Property Tax/Rent Rebate applications; information on living wills, student financial assistance programs, and fishing and boating; Pennsylvania drivers’ and commercial drivers’ manuals and other PennDOT forms; birth certificate and notary applications; voter registration forms; state grant booklets; and booklets on veterans services.

“I encourage you to visit one of my offices to make sure that you are receiving all of the aid and assistance that you are eligible for,” Ferlo said.  “My staff will gladly assist you in determining your eligibility and making sure your applications are filed correctly.”

Ferlo’s nearest district offices is located at 3519 Butler Street in Pittsburgh, just down the hill from our neighborhood.  For more information on all of the services provided, visit Sen. Ferlo’s website.

Above photo of Sen. Ferlo in his Lawrenceville office, from an article in the Post-Gazette.

Tonight, write a letter for the library!

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Are you concerned about the library branches closing? Please attend a letter writing party, wherein folks will gather and write letters to each board member of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, urging them not to close the branches, and to allow organizations and interested parties a chance to offer CLP money and a funding solution. So far, City Council has found half the money, and people’s recent donations have covered another quarter. But the library board still wants to close the branches barring a permanent solution.
There will be a letter-writing party at Armand’s at 4755 Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield from 7 to 9pm on Tuesday, November 24th, in the back room where there are lots of booths with tables.

(photo shows Carnegie Library in Lawrenceville, one of the branches that is slated to be closed due to budget shortfalls)

Low-cost options for pet owners

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Low-income pet owners don’t have to stint in necessary care for their pets.  While no one offers free veterinary services, you can get rabies shots and spay/neuter services at a low cost.  Animal Friends, which offers animals for adoption, also offers rabies clinics around town each summer.  Vaccines are just $10 each, so put a note on your calendar for next year!.

Animal Friends’ spay and neuter program has a few requirements.  To participate in Animal Friends’ LCSN program, you must:
–Earn $3,500 per month or less
–Live in southwestern Pennsylvania
–Download and completely fill out LCSN Spay/Neuter Application.
–Include proof of income for all adults living within the household. The cost of surgery will vary depending on income. Proof of income can be a paycheck stub, W-2 form, proof of Social Security or disability benefits, proof of unemployment or workman’s compensation, or proof of Medicare or Medicaid. Your information remains confidential.

Mail all of the above to:  Animal Friends Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Program, 562 Camp Horne Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237.  After they have received and processed your application, Animal Friends will call you to schedule an appointment.

Pet owners who make more than the income guideline can apply for a coupon for a percentage off on a spay or neuter procedure–$25 for dogs;  $15 for cats; $20 for rabbits.  One exception to this is pit bulls–you can get your pit bull spayed or neutered for just a $20 deposit.

For more information these are other services, call Animal Friends at  412.847.7000, or visit their website.

Open Book Pittsburgh

There’s a new information source that was recently launched by the City Controller office. Through this online database, you can find out how the various projects and departments in the city are funded. There is also an option for exploring campaign finances. From the Open Book site —

Open Book Pittsburgh is a searchable database of Pittsburgh city government contracts, administered by Pittsburgh’s Office of the City Controller. Open Book Pittsburgh gives Pittsburgh taxpayers access as to how City leaders are spending your tax dollars.

In addition to city government contracts, Open Book Pittsburgh also gives taxpayers a look as to where elected officials and candidates for elected offices in the City of Pittsburgh receive campaign contributions, and how candidates spend those funds.

Homelessness prevention program launched

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The Homelessness Prevention & Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP)  has been launched to provide financial assistance and services to homeless individuals and families, as well as those who would become homeless without assistance. The HPRP efforts are made possible by more than $14 million from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.

HPRP will provide short-term stability to individuals and families, such as assistance with rent, help with utility payments, relocation services, and access to counseling. The goal of the program is to help those who are homeless or are in danger of becoming homeless to gain housing in the short term that they will be able to maintain in the long term.

In order to qualify for assistance under the program, participants must be homeless or about to become homeless. In addition, households must be below 50 percent of the area median income, which for a family of four is $31,250, and must have no other housing options or financial support resources to obtain housing. Funds will be used to provide short-term and medium-term rental assistance, payment of security and utility deposits, moving costs, and motel vouchers, as well as financial counseling, credit repair and legal services.

For more information or to apply, individuals and families can call the HPRP Hotline at 1-877-350-HPRP, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, or visit the HPRP website.

(photo by Mary Ellen Mark)

Community meeting to discuss library closings

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It has been announced that there will be a community meeting on the planned closing of four city libraries on Saturday at 11 am at St. Mary’s Lower Lyceum at 321 45th St. in Lawrenceville.  Residents will be able to comment on, and ask questions about, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s planned closing of the Lawrenceville, Beechview, Hazelwood and West End branches, and the planned merger of the Knoxville and Carrick branches.

The Carnegie Library system is suffering from enormous budget shortfalls.  Some staff have had their hours cut by 30%, and other cuts are on the way.  This excellent library system has been serving Pittsburgh residents for close to 100 years, and this is the first time that branches will be closed.  If you use and value our libraries, please consider showing your support, by writing a letter, attending a meeting, or making a donation.

Read the Post- Gazette article on the community meeting and the Carnegie Library.

Resources for residents: Action Housing

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Action Housing is a Pittsburgh organization whose primary mission to provide decent, safe and affordable housing.  Action Housing provides assistance to low income, disabled, or elderly people who need help in making certain types of improvements in their homes (whether they rent or own).

Action Housing’s mission statement is simple:  “To empower people to build more secure and self-sufficient lives through the provision of decent, affordable housing, essential supportive services, asset building programs, and educational and employment opportunities.”

Some of their programs will be of particular interest to Polish Hill residents:

The Allegheny County Accessibility Program provides adaptive modifications to allow disabled or elderly individuals to remain in their homes.  These modifications include things such as ramps, lifts, doorway widening, and kitchen and bathroom modifications.  For more information contact Frank Demes at 412.281.2102, ext. 2027.

The Homeowner’s Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) exists to cease foreclosure actions by assisting clients in applying to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) for emergency financial assistance.  Call 412.281.2102 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

The Weatherization Program  is geared primarily to provide the necessary repairs to an eligible unit to reduce the amount of air infiltration out of and into the home.  This includes work such as replacing cracked or broken glass in windows, caulking or weather stripping around windows, insulation for water heaters or exposed pipes, and safety checks on heating plant and hot water tanks.  You can call 412.227.5700, ext. 2102 for more information or to receive an information packet.

You can also check here for a page with more information on these programs.  The PHCA office also has Action Housing brochures and information cards.

Action Housing also offers the Family Savings Account Program (FSA), an anti-poverty strategy that helps low-income people move toward greater self-sufficiency by accumulating savings and purchasing long-term assets.  For more information call Amanda Burkhart at 412/281-2102, ext. 2022.

Action Housing is slated to receive a portion of the 13.5 million in stimulus money that was slated for homeless prevention in our region.  Here is more information on the organizations that will receive this money.