As soon as the temperature drops, the Pittsburgh Snow Angels program starts getting calls from residents who need help with snow removal. Those calls increase when the snow starts fall, and on days like this weekend into early this week, the calls are nonstop, said Corey Buckner, manager of the city’s Office of Community Affairs which leads the program.
Snow Angels pairs city residents who have a physical disability or are 60 or older with volunteers who live nearby who can shovel their sidewalks and walkways, even dig their cars out, when it snows.
But the volunteers and residents in need don’t always live close enough to pair, Buckner said. So while there are currently 168 volunteers for 76 residents in need, there are areas of the city where it’s just residents in need and no volunteers nearby to help.
The numbers are always changing too, he said, adding that there are more than two dozen applications out with residents who need help and his office anticipates more requests to come in.
“A lot of neighborhoods are in need of help right now,” he said, adding that in general, the North Side, South Side and far East End are all in need of volunteers. Some neighborhoods, as of Wednesday afternoon, didn’t have a single volunteer, he said.
Who needs help
The following neighborhoods, Buckner said, need volunteers to help (asterisks denote areas with the most need):
- East Hills
- Highland Park
- Hill District*
- Mount Washington/Duquesne Heights*
- Perry Hilltop
- South and Central Oakland
- Squirrel Hill
- Swisshelm Park
- Upper Lawrenceville
- West End
Per city code, sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours of snow, sleet or ice accumulation, so Snow Angels tries to place volunteers within a few blocks of their homes. Not only does that make it safer to travel when the weather is bad, it’s community building to help your neighbors, Buckner said.
However, he said the program would be willing to accept volunteers who are willing to travel a mile or so to neighborhoods near them as long as they bring it up with community affairs when signing up and are willing to make the commitment for the entire winter.
Snow Angels can also sign up to shovel for more than one resident or work as a two-person team, he said.
How to sign up for Snow Angels:
Volunteers must be 18 or older. Recipients must have a physical disability or be 60 or older, live in the city and have no alternative for snow removal. Volunteers and recipients must sign up to participate each winter season. Both volunteers and recipients have two ways to sign up:
- Visit the website
- Call 311
Snow on city streets
Following the weekend weather, city officials continue to discuss ways to improve snow removal. On Tuesday, Mayor Bill Peduto outlined his plans including four changes — investing more in road salt and liquid calcium chloride, increasing response on nights and weekends, getting more drivers on the streets and redesigning snow remove routes to be the most efficient.
On Wednesday, Peduto and Pittsburgh City Council announced they would find a location for the Fourth Division of the Department of Public Works building by July, per a news release. The division building in Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods closed in October. Bringing the division building back to the Fourth District was an early priority for council’s newest member Anthony Coghill.
“As we saw over this past weekend, having our drivers come from different areas of the city caused drastic delays in service to some of our hilliest neighborhoods in South Pittsburgh. By re-opening this division, the city can assure that the hard working men and women of the 4th Division can provide coverage for our residents’ basic needs in District 4,” he said in the release.
Snow removal from city streets was also a topic of discussion at city council’s Wednesday meeting where members discussed a lack of resources.
The crews are doing the best they can and the mayor is on the right track, but it’s important to look at the routes and make sure services get to residents, council member Theresa Kail-Smith said during the meeting.
Several council members agreed.
“All of our residents have been affected by snow, my question will always be — how do we serve everybody?” added council member Rev. Ricky Burgess.