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At the Pantry: talking housing, poverty and mental health


JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry’s services go far beyond food assistance. Our social workers and the Pantry’s SOS Pittsburgh help clients with widely varying critical needs resolve problems that stand in the way of their self-sufficiency.

Housing is by far the biggest need. So recently we invited some local experts in housing-related issues to the Pantry for an informational presentation and Q&A. Topics included issues that affect housing, like poverty and mental health.

Speaker Linda Tashbook, Adjunct Professor of Law & Librarian at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and author of Family Guide to Mental Illness and the Law: A Practical Handbook, presented information about mental health and housing law. She talked about housing law as it applies to tenants with mental health challenges. Are therapy animals different than pets? If one’s family helps out with housing financially, how does that affect SSI disability benefits?

Celeste Scott, a Housing Justice Organizer for Pittsburgh United who led the fight to win and fund Pittsburgh’s first-ever city-wide affordable housing legislation, the Housing Opportunity Fund, talked about the legislation and the campaign that made it happen. The fund’s $10 million raised annually will be used to help maintain affordable housing in Pittsburgh. While the government’s accepted percentage of salary spent on housing is 30%, at the average Pittsburgh 2-bedroom apartment monthly rent of $2,163, a family would have to have an income of over $85,000 to meet this standard, about twice as much as the average Pittsburgher earns.

Representatives from many other nonprofits attended, including Literacy Pittsburgh, YMCA, Women’s Center and Shelter, Hazelwood Initiative, Veterans Leadership Program, among others. It was a great opportunity to network and share expert information with a variety of organizations that all work to help people in our community move forward.

JFCS has long recognized that people facing changes and challenges often have more than one pressing problem. Our programs and departments work together to provide a holistic approach to resolving issues. We also value our connections with our community partners. Working together we can help even more people resolve their changes and challenges!

Photos: (L-R) Housing presentation at the Pantry; Linda Tashbook; Celeste Scott