By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – In the summer, downtown’s homeless and the destitute often sleep in doorways in the open air. But as the temperature drops, the concern rises.

For more than four decades, they’ve found warmth, shelter and a place to sleep at Smithfield United Christian Church.

This year, however, the city and county just couldn’t ignore a number of fire suppression and access problems at the old church’s shelter — which would house 100 men and 25 women on any given chilly night.

“You’ve got that many people down there you want them to be safe, but there wasn’t any contingency plan and this was the crisis,” said Rev. Douglas Patterson, Smithfield’s pastor.

And so over the past few weeks, several foundations, social service organizations and government agencies huddled together to come up with a plan and the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to address those concerns.

On Friday, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services issued a statement saying the shelter will open as planned by mid-month:

“This could not have been accomplished without the help of Mayor Bill Peduto’s office and the City of Pittsburgh, Action Housing, Pittsburgh Mercy and the Smithfield Church. It’s a great example of what Allegheny County is all about — coming together to solve problems and working to make our region a better place, which includes caring for everyone in our community.”

Over the next two weeks, the church will address enough of the violations to open the shelter while it works on the bigger project such as installing a sprinkler system — allowing the church to carry on with its mission.

“Cause we’re the oldest organized church in the city — 1782. And it’s just nice to know we’re going to continue that and people are going to be safe at night,” Patterson said.