The McMurray Rotary provides assistance to the region's homeless population through supporting the work of Operation Safety Net.
The unsheltered homeless are those among us sleeping on the streets, under bridges, in doorways, parks and other public places. Many of them are personally vulnerable with mental illness, addictions, physical illness, HIV/AIDs and physical disabilities, or are victims of physical and sexual abuse. Often, the unsheltered homeless have been released without shelter plans from prison, foster care, and mental institutions. The National Coalition for the Homeless has several informative factsheets on their website for those interested in more information on the background and statistics of homelessness.
The story of Operation Safety Net is set against the epidemiological background of homelessness and the various challenging biopsychosocial needs of the homeless. Operation Safety Net began with one physician's more or less anthropological approach toward learning about the homeless of Pittsburgh. In 1992, Dr. Jim Withers, an internal medicine physician, began to provide medical care to Pittsburgh's unsheltered homeless population. He partnered with street-savvy formerly homeless individuals and, initially dressing as a homeless person in order to gain trust, began to make nighttime street rounds in the alleys and under the bridges of the city.
From this initial outreach service other clinical volunteers joined in and Operation Safety Net was born. Today, Operation Safety Net is recognized as one of the nation’s first, targeted, full-time street medicine programs. It continues to set the standard for this unique form of health care. Dr. Withers and Operations Safety Net have been instrumental in starting the international Street Medicine Institute which brings together the expertise from professionals throughout the nation and around the world who share in common the goals of adequately addressing the wholistic needs of the homeless.
Operation Safety Net maintains continuity with their contact teams with the areas homeless persons which helps to facilitate the delivery of services to them. The people they have served over the years have taught Operations Safety Net how to best address their needs in the context of their real lives. By their continual presence and continuity of committment to them, Operation Safety Net has been continuing to develop trust and foster deep, personal connection with the individuals they serve, making Operation Safety Net a more capable partner for helping each homeless person find the right individualized solutions for them.
McMurray Rotary and Operation Safety Net
Starting in 2010, McMurray Rotary Club helped Operation Safety Net purchase materials needed by the regions 1200 chronically homeless. Throughout the winter, McMurray Rotary Club collaborated with other Rotary Clubs in the region to hold clothing donation drives. These drives have provided socks, gloves, hats, and coats for the homeless who seek out either the social services of OSN, are met on the streets, or who stay at the severe weather shelter operated by OSN.
Local high schools have also joined this effort. Upper St. Clair High School students have organized drives to acquire furniture and household items for those who are newly placed in transitional housing. Peters Township High School students are also organizing efforts to meet the needs of the homeless.
The McMurray Rotary remains committed to continuing to help Operation Safety Net and others who are helping the homeless locally, nationally and internationally. To learn more about this work you may be interested in viewing and sharing with others the award winning documentary film "One Bridge to the Next" by the BeCause Foundation, which follows three homeless Pittsburghers who are brought medical help and social justice by Operation Safety Net. If you would like to donate or help this work, please do not hesitate to contact McMurray Rotary Club member and OSN Volunteer Physician, Dr. Steve Morreale (