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Tent Camp Closure Marks Shift in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Homelessness Policies

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In clearing an encampment in Allegheny Center, the city set aside protocols that had endured for nearly 20 years, even as the county saw new shelter space rapidly fill.

Amelia Winger,  Eric Jankiewicz and  Stephanie Strasburg

January 20, 2023

Two legal advocacy groups are urging Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials to develop policies for respectfully decommissioning homeless encampments, citing December’s closure of one along Stockton Avenue as a potential violation of the constitutional rights of people who lived there.

“The government can do a lot, but they have to do it in a constitutional way,” said Vic Walczak, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania’s legal director. “Unceremoniously taking and destroying people’s private property without adequate notice is clearly unconstitutional.”

In a letter sent to the city and county on Jan. 19, the Community Justice Project and the ACLU argued that the closure of the Stockton Avenue encampment was a “fiasco” because the governments did not provide the residents with sufficient notice of the closure, alternative housing options or storage for the items they left behind. They’re requesting that city Solicitor Krysia Kubiak, county Solicitor George Janocsko and other officials meet with them to establish criteria for determining when to close encampments and protocols for executing closures. 

Read the rest of this article on PublicSource, a nonprofit newsroom serving the Pittsburgh region, where it was originally publishedSign up for its free weekly newsletters here.