Our History

Our Mission CHS empowers individuals and families to live in stable housing, connect to community resources, build relationships, and access quality food.

Our History In 1970, the fabric of Pittsburgh's South Oakland neighborhood was changing rapidly, reflecting the greater changes of the city brought about by the collapse of the steel industry as well as trends seen in inner-city neighborhoods across the country. The deaths of longtime residents and subsequent sale of their homes, coupled with an exodus to the suburbs of younger residents, created an atmosphere of instability and the social fabric of the neighborhood weakened. As a result, a climate of mistrust and instability, along with physical deterioration of homes in the area, prevailed.

A group of concerned South Oakland neighborhood residents along with founding Executive Director Phil Pappas, recognized the problems and became determined to stabilize the neighborhood and prevent further decay. This small group recognized the potential of the South Oakland residents and began a revitalization effort by going door to door to recruit neighbors to help with the task of stabilize the community, asking those they contacted what they felt they could do in addition to what they felt was needed. The concept of action was important because it allowed people to become empowered through the discovery and exercise of their strengths and abilities. The neighbors who were involved encouraged other neighbors to come to a storefront drop-in center designed to give the residents an opportunity to get to know each other. Informal activities such as bingo, knitting and cards, along with the sharing of diverse ethnic foods, began. These early efforts reflect the mission of the settlement house organized at the turn of the century. 

From these roots CHS has grown to be a sprawling tree providing a wide range of services not only in the South Oakland community, but throughout the greater Pittsburgh area. Yet each of our programs is built upon the foundation established during those early days. Our programming extends the notion of care and celebration to places where people live and work, rather than operating from one central location. These "new" systems that mix professionals and indigenous persons to provide services reflect a need in our culture to mix informal community rituals with the more formal supports and interventions. Such a system integrates people and helps reestablish community while assisting persons at risk.

From 2001-2005, former controller Michael Printz became the second Executive Director Community Human Services. After spending five years overseeing our homeless programs, Adrienne Walnoha became our third Executive Director/CEO in 2006.