People using adult-only emergency shelters in Allegheny County

Current Information

In Allegheny County, a network of shelters provides a temporary place to stay for people experiencing homelessness. Allegheny County’s emergency shelter network includes facilities which serve adults only and others that offer accommodations to families with children or other dependents. The County strives to ensure that every shelter stay is rare, brief and non-recurring.

Individuals in adult-only households make up about three-quarters of all shelter users. This data brief focuses on the 1,560 adults who entered one of the County’s 13 adult-only emergency shelters once or more from April 2022 through March 2023..  For descriptions of other people served in the homeless system, see these related data briefs: “Families using emergency shelters in Allegheny County” and “People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness in Allegheny County.

  • 70% (N=1,096) of the people using adult-only shelters were men. Black individuals were overrepresented, making up 51% of those using shelter but only 14% of Allegheny County’s population. 80% of people were between 25 and 64 years old and relatively evenly distributed among the four age groups in that range. 13% were ages 18 through 24 and 7% were 65 or older.
  • 76% (N=1,181) of people had only one shelter stay during the period of study. 15% had two stays and 9% had three or more.
  • Half of the shelter stays were for two weeks or less. 25% of shelter stays lasted five days or fewer and 75% were for 54 days or fewer.
  • Most of the people using shelters had recent addresses in Allegheny County communities. 46% had recent addresses in the City of Pittsburgh, with the most common neighborhoods being Carrick, East Liberty, Marshall-Shadeland and Sheradan. The remaining 54% had addresses outside of the City, with the most common municipalities being McKeesport, Wilkinsburg and Penn Hills.
  • Among shelter exits for which we have exit information, 49% (N=760) of stays resulted in exits to stable housing.  Almost half of the people who exited their stay(s) within two weeks exited to stable housing, increasing to 58-65% of people who exited their stay(s) after a month.
  • Less than half of individuals reported income from any source. PA Department of Labor and Industry data provides some insight over time; about one-third of people using shelter were employed in any given quarter from 2017 through 2022. For those who were employed, wages averaged between $663–$1,017 per month.
  • 17% (N=259) of people had a shelter stay in the year prior to their first stay in the study period. 8% (N=132) were engaged in a supportive housing program in the year prior to their shelter stay.
  • Other services and system involvement:
    • Behavioral health services. Among adult shelter users enrolled in Medicaid (N=945), more than 75% accessed behavioral health services. 43% (N=404) accessed mental health outpatient care, 39% used a mental health crisis service and 15% used a mental health inpatient service. The most frequent mental health diagnoses were depressive disorder, adjustment disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 35% (N=327) used a substance use disorder service. The top substance use disorders involve opioids and alcohol.
    • Physical health services. For Medicaid-enrolled individuals, the most common chronic condition was hypertension, followed by kidney disease and diabetes. Adults using shelter have higher rates of many chronic diseases than those in the general Medicaid-enrolled population in the County.
    • Criminal Justice System. About a third of people were involved with the adult criminal justice system in the year prior to their shelter stay.
    • Other services. Five percent (N=75) of adults were involved in child welfare as a parent. 20% (N=46) of older adults (aged 60+) using shelter were connected to aging services in the year prior to their entry.

Emergency shelters are meant to be short-term housing for people experiencing a crisis. The County’s goal is to ensure that shelter stays are rare, brief and non-recurring.  The County is working with shelter staff and other housing providers to support client moves to stable housing when possible, with the goal of improving their overall outcomes and ensuring that short-term beds are available when people need them.