About Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net®
Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net® is our innovative, award-winning medical and social service outreach program for persons who are experiencing homelessness in Allegheny County.
We serve in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy. We reach out and offer services that help people and empower them to improve their quality of life. We also strive to address the circumstances that undermine mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
In 1992, Dr. Jim Withers, an internal medicine physician at Pittsburgh Mercy, partnered with street-savvy individuals who were formerly homeless. Together, they made “house calls” to persons who live on the streets of Pittsburgh. They made street rounds at night, in the alleys and under the bridges of the city. Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net and the concept of “street medicine” were born. The program received start-up funding through a Pittsburgh Mercy Care for the Poor Fund grant. Operation Safety Net became an official Pittsburgh Mercy outreach program in 1993. Dr. Withers continues to serve as the program’s full-time medical director and as the medical director of homeless services at Pittsburgh Mercy.
Today, in addition to street outreach services, we also offer:
- Second Avenue Commons, a year-round, low-barrier shelter that supports adults who are experiencing homelessness, including couples and people with pets*
- An engagement center
- Housing and care management services
- Physical health services
- Legal assistance
- Referrals and linkages to other Pittsburgh Mercy services, including mental health and substance use disorder services.
- Referrals and linkages to other community resources, such as permanent housing and employment.
In the past 30 years, we’ve reached thousands of individuals. Last year, we provided services to 1,575 individuals experiencing homelessness.
We continue to help and inspire hope. We partner with other homeless service providers.
We set the standard for innovative programs around the world. Our ground-breaking work in Pittsburgh has been widely recognized and replicated on six continents through our partnership with the Street Medicine Institute, a separate nonprofit organization that we helped Dr. Withers to establish in 2008.
*Dogs and cats
Updated: November 27, 2022