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August 31, 2000

HUD gives Pitt grant for work in neighborhoods

Pitt will receive a $399,702 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to improve neighborhoods near campus.

The three-year grant, announced Tuesday, is one of 16 first-time grants awarded nationwide through HUD's Community Outreach Partnership Centers program. The grants are aimed at helping colleges and universities to "harness their physical and economic resources and the knowledge, creativity and energy of their faculty and students to create stronger, healthier neighborhoods near their campuses," according to HUD.

Community groups and Pitt will match the grant by providing an additional $483,700 worth of funding (including $100,000 from the Chancellor's office), staff time and in-kind services.

Pitt's grant targets Central, South and West Oakland, Allequippa Terrace/Oak Hill and Hazelwood.

Project director Tracy M. Soska of the School of Social Work said the grant will expand and coordinate Pitt's neighborhood improvement efforts.

"Currently, the University and its schools are out there in a number of neighborhoods doing individual projects," Soska said. "This grant will enable us to draw all of those activities together and create a coordinated Pitt presence in the community."

Projects to be funded by the grant and matching funds were developed by community groups and Pitt. "This isn't the University saying, 'Here's what we think these neighborhoods need.' Instead, the communities themselves have told us, 'Here are the problems we face and here's the kind of help we need.' Then it was a question of determining what kind of resources the University could bring to bear in those neighborhoods to help them address those issues," Soska said.

"HUD will not award these grants unless a university can demonstrate that it has a strong partnership with the community," he noted.

Project co-director Sabina Deitrick of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs cited the following planned projects:

* Expanding Pitt's Housing Resource Center, which now mainly serves Pitt students, to also serve neighborhood residents. "There will be new satellite offices and a lot of information provided on loan and grant programs for home improvements and financing for home buying," Deitrick said.

* Developing education and outreach programs to address community health problems such as asthma, inadequate pre-natal care, and lead poisoning caused by eating lead-based paint.

* Updating the Oakland housing survey and developing a housing inventory for Hazelwood.

* Recruiting Pitt students as mentors for young neighborhood residents.

* Expanding a project that trains neighborhood residents for jobs at Pitt and UPMC Health System. Currently, the project targets women in Allequippa Terrace/Oak Hill who are making the transition from welfare to the workplace. Thanks to the HUD grant, the project will be open to anyone in that neighborhood.

Other Pennsylvania schools that received HUD Community Outreach Partnership Centers Program grants were Duquesne and Penn. Both schools had previously been awarded grants through the program. This week, each was awarded $150,000 for two years.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 33 Issue 1

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