Partnership aids youth, homeless with employment

Wednesday, September 05, 2018 - Updated: 1:30 pm

By Bob De Witt Correspondent

When Andre Scott looks into the faces of the men he serves at Catholic Charities’ St. Joseph House of Hospitality, he feels empathy and gratitude for his own second chance.

Scott, 23, lived under a bridge in Pittsburgh for six months last year. He knew he was in trouble.

“It’s rough on the streets,” he said. “You don’t know where your next meal is coming from. The hunger keeps you up all night.”

He received assistance from Team PSBG, which helps connect displaced people to resources such as housing and medical care. A county agency found Scott a subsidized apartment, and he’s now working in the kitchen and dining hall at St. Joe’s, which houses older men who were formerly homeless.

Several jobs have been created through a partnership with Auberle, a Catholic nonprofit organization that helps troubled youth and parents become self-supporting, hard-working adults.

“We’re providing young people with on-the-job training, teaching them food service and basic culinary skills,” said Craig Seifried, dietary administrator for Auberle. “They can also work toward certification in food handling through our Employment Institute.”

Founded in 1937, St. Joseph House of Hospitality is the only year-round men’s residential program of its kind in southwestern Pennsylvania. The 60-room facility is located in the former Roselia Foundling and Maternity Hospital on Bedford Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

Men age 50 and older receive case management for medical and mental health services, and drug and alcohol treatment. They also get help searching for a job and with life skills such as budgeting.

About one-third of residents are in long-term supportive housing, according to new administrator Greg Knackstedt. Most receive transitional housing, “a journey toward self-sufficiency,” as Knackstedt describes it.

“There’s a common misperception that they aren’t willing to work,” he said. “That’s not true. They are survivors who have to relearn how to apply for, obtain and keep jobs.”

“J.T.” is one of St. Joe’s success stories. A former Marine and tradesman who fell into substance abuse, J.T. got the assistance he needed and now lives in a nearby apartment. He returns to the facility daily to work in the kitchen.

“I’ve gone through some rough times,” he said. “They’ve helped me get on my feet.”

“Some of our residents have experienced trauma or can’t forgive themselves for past mistakes,” said Sister Irene Ellis, assistant administrator at St. Joe’s. “These are the greatest barriers they face, but also where healing begins.”

“We focus on helping our residents become stronger, more stable and hopefully reach independence,” said Susan Rauscher, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. “Having two Catholic agencies partner this way improves our services.”

“It is an honor to collaborate with Catholic Charities, and heartwarming to see the results of our staffs working together,” said John Patrick Lydon, CEO of Auberle.

Scott regrets that these men didn’t get the kind of help years ago that he has received, and is determined to not only turn his life around but to continue serving others.

“I’d like to help the homeless, maybe start an organization down the road,” Scott said. “I’m feeling optimistic about the future.”

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