Pittsburgh Mercy Health System

Operation Safety Net


It is for God we serve the poor, not for thanks. Catherine McAuley, 1778-1841, founder of the Sisters of Mercy
Medical Outreach to People Who Are Homeless

Operation Safety Net, part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and Trinity Health, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, touches the lives of hundreds of men and women living on the streets in Pittsburgh annually by providing them with access to health care, hope, and dignity.

History of Operation Safety Net

In 1992, Dr. Jim Withers, an internal medicine physician, began providing medical care to Pittsburgh’s unsheltered homeless population. He partnered with street-savvy formerly homeless individuals and, initially dressing as a homeless person, 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 nation’s first, targeted, full-time street medicine programs. It continues to set the standard for this unique form of health care.

The people we serve have taught us how to best address their needs in the context of their real lives. By developing trust and fostering deep, personal connection with the individuals we serve, we are able to partner with them to find solutions.

One Bridge to the Next, a documentary that spotlights the emerging field of street medicine featuring Operation Safety Net.

Inspired by the one million people who live on America's streets, many of whom have no source of healthcare, the BeCause Foundation produced One Bridge to the Next. The film documents one doctor's efforts to make a difference.

Operation Safety Net delivers health care and hope: Street Medicine in Pittsburgh

Operation Safety Net reaches out to those in need by meeting people where they are in life. Operation Safety Net’s roots were in making “house calls” to people in Pittsburgh wherever they call home – in door and alleyways, along river banks, or beneath bridges and highway overpasses.

Pittsburgh-based and award-winning photojournalist Martha Rial recently accompanied Dr. Jim Withers and one of Operation Safety Net’s outreach teams on rounds. She produced “Street Medicine in Pittsburgh,” an audio slideshow for Catholic Health World, a publication of the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

View the slide show, Street Medicine in Pittsburgh.

Photos by Martha Rial, © Catholic Health Association. Used with permission.

Operation Safety Net helps reduce homelessness

CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman profiles Operation Safety Net's efforts to reduce the incidence of street homelessness in Pittsburgh and provide wholistic healing - and hope - to some of our community's most vulnerable residents. View the story here.

The Longest Night

Every December, on the winter solstice, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and Operation Safety Net host a public candlelight vigil to remember people who have died during the year while living on the streets of Pittsburgh, and to honor those who cared for them. The annual vigil, which coincides with National Homeless Persons Memorial Day, takes place at the intersection of Grant Street and Fort Pitt Boulevard in Downtown Pittsburgh. There, a wall of memorial plaques honors those who have died.

Pittsburgh-based award-winning photojournalist Renee Rosensteel produced, “We Remember,” a video to chronicle the memorial vigil.

View the video, We Remember.

Video by Renee Rosensteel. Used with permission.

Pittsburgh Mercy - A Heritage of Hope Operation Safety Net
Contact Us
Operation Safety Net
Work 903 Watson Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Work 412.232.5739

Toll Free 1.888.492.8950

Please send monetary donations to:

Pittsburgh Mercy
Development Office
101 Bradford Road
Wexford, PA 15090
Call 724-934-3537