A helping hand available during tough times


Part two in a two-part series on adult social services. Part one can be found here.

Northside Common Ministries has a 30-bed shelter for homeless men, which Director Jay Poliziani says has a direct impact on the community. (Photo courtesy Northside Common Ministries)

With the local unemployment rate at 7.9 percent and 20 percent of Pittsburghers living below the poverty line, according to the Census Bureau, many Northside adults struggle to make ends meet.

But whether you are a single mother working two jobs to send your children to school, a middle class family having trouble paying for a home repair or a young adult trying to pay your bills, there is an organization willing to help.

Two of these that are dedicated to making life easier for adults in need on the Northside are Northside Common Ministries and Grace Period.

Northside Common Ministries

As an affiliate of Goodwill Southwestern Pennsylvania, Northside Common Ministries provides food, shelter and counseling to disadvantaged Northside adults.

NCM organizes and operates Pleasant Valley Emergency Shelter for more than 600 homeless men each year, a Permanent Housing Program and the Northside Community Food Pantry, said Executive Director Jay Poliziani.

According to Poliziani, the organization is dedicated to providing shelter and aid for people with mental and physical disabilities. Through their Permanent Housing Program, NCM helps the disabled with financial assistance, case management and employment and education referrals.  

“There are a dozens of men living in apartments around the Northside and other neighborhoods through the help of our Permanent Housing Program,” said Poliziani.

The Food Pantry, which is located in the same building as the shelter, is open every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, as well as on the third Saturday of every month.

NCM provides food assistance to over 750 individuals and families per year through donations from corporations, churches and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

“What separates NCM’s food pantry from other food pantries is that we offer our food in a unique grocery style setting where each customer is allotted a certain amount of food based on individual need.” Poliziani said. “Most of the people we service are allotted around 20 pounds of food.”  

NCM also provides a certified nurse on Tuesdays and Fridays in the morning hours to conduct primary check-ups for the men at the shelter. The organization also offers tax prep services for people who need assistance.

For more information on NCM’s services or to volunteer, contact 412-363-1163.

Grace Period

The payday lending is a $59 billion industry, according to Grace Period’s website. The organization is built on the belief that the industry is unfair to the lender and needs to be reformed.

Dan Krebs, CEO of Grace Period, works with the President Tony Wiles to provide safe and secure loans to Northsiders who are in need of financial relief.

“Predatory lenders take advantage of people with exploitive business practices,” Krebs said. “Tony and I are here to offer people a more reasonable alternative to borrowing money than other cash advance and payday loan operations.”

Since the economic downtown, “cash till payday” or “payday lender” financial services have become more and more popular. These services offer loans at extremely high interest rates, and lend to customers knowing the customer will not be able to pay the loan off in a timely fashion, he said.

Wiles said that because their organization is a nonprofit, the ultimate goal is to help the borrower, not to make money from loan interest like most loan companies do.

Grace Period not only provides safe loans to their customers, but educates customers on financial responsibility in order to help borrowers become financially independent.

“One of the most helpful practices we teach our customers is the importance of systematic transfers,” Wiles said.

Systematic transfers are regular transfers from a checking account to a savings account.

“Making these transfers a habit makes taking out loans unnecessary,” he said.

The organization has provided loans of up to $500 to over 2800 people thus far. Many of the people that Grace Period helps are single mothers in need of temporary financial relief.

For more information on receiving a loan, or to volunteer, call 412-322-3151.

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