How housing vouchers and ‘Section 8’ stigma fail Pittsburgh’s neediest households

It was one of the coldest February days when the furnace in Doren Dansby’s building broke. Soon after, the electricity in her Mount Oliver apartment started going offline for daylong spells. The landlord, who spoke little English, couldn’t tell Dansby when either would be fixed. She knew she and her 9-year-old son had to get out. “I kept calling 211,” Dansby, 28, recalls.

Video: Amid crime and blight, Natalie Thomas plants peace and community in Beltzhoover.

Since 2011, longtime Beltzhoover resident Natalie Thomas has been the caretaker of the Unified Positive Effect Community Garden at the corner of Climax Street and Estella Avenue. Thomas, 62, said the space used to be a jungle of overgrown weeds and grass that attracted neighborhood crime. Now people know not to “mess with” her garden, and she said she’s noticed a reduction in crime on the block.

Is the future of Pittsburgh’s labor in its smallest immigrant communities?

The labor movement, as we know it, is dying. In Pittsburgh, like in many metropolitan areas, unions are seeing a decline in their membership rolls and an aging workforce. The future of labor may be in Pittsburgh’s smallest immigrant community. “We need to focus on how we are going to diversify Pittsburgh more effectively,” said Dr. James Craft, a professor of business administration in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. It is predicted that one out of two entrants into the United States workforce in 2050 will be Latino.