By Alyse Horn

With recent approval from the City’s zoning board, Light of Life Rescue Mission is one step closer on relocation from its North Avenue spot to two different Northside locations.

The two sites include Light of Life’s Ridge Avenue location, which was acquired from Pittsburgh Public Schools four years ago and will need renovations, and the other is located under the Veterans Bridge where new construction will commence after the 30-day appeal window has closed. After that, Light of Life Executive Director Craig Schweiger said the organization will work with city planning and complete the building permit application.

He said is it likely that construction on the new site under Veterans Bridge will begin before renovations on the Ridge Avenue location. After completion of construction on the new building, Schweiger said services from North Avenue would be relocated to that site.

Services available to the homeless will be balanced between the two sites. Shelter beds will be available at both locations for men and women, and the Ridge Avenue location will hold long-term men’s programs as well as women’s and children’s non-residential programs. The shorter, step-up programming will be at the Veterans Bridge location as well as the meal ministry. Schweiger said that Light of Light not only serves prepared meals to the homeless, but also the “working poor.”

The choice to have two locations that are somewhat isolated came from years of community input, and are “are simply better for the mission that we serve, which is to end homelessness and to provide a place where men and women can be served with dignity,” Schweiger said.

“We are decompressing. We have been jammed into a facility that is inadequate, and we use every square inch of it,” Schweiger said. “With homelessness, there is a fear and anxiety that you find and when you are sleeping in such close quarters with low ceilings [with beds] that are only a couple feet apart — that doesn’t promote the opportunity to dispel some of the emotions and fears and so forth that [the homeless] bring.”

Light of Life owns their current North Avenue building and plan on selling it when the time comes. Schweiger said North Avenue is in a state of revitalization, and mentioned that that block has been described as “the gateway to the Northside.”

He said being given the opportunity to relocate to sites that better suite Light of Life and make the North Avenue building available for redevelopment is a win for the City and a win for his organization.
Background on Light of Life Rescue Mission: Established in 1952, Light of Life Rescue Mission is a Christian nonprofit organization providing life changing recovery programs and food and shelter for Pittsburgh’s poor and homeless.  Men, women and children are provided case management and programs designed to meet diverse needs, including recovery from substance addiction, help for mental health issues, and educational courses to prepare them for careers and independent living.  The Mission is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  No one is denied services based on race, creed, religion, gender, age or national origin.  Light of Life is supported largely by private donations.  To learn more, call 412-258-6100 or visit lightoflife.org.