Rev. Michael Wurschmidt (right), staff and Veteran participants in front of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank delivery truck

Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship & Veteran’s Home is a congregation, but not one that can ask for offerings on Sunday. They’re all homeless, or close to it.

“We have a housing program for homeless veterans, many of which are combat veterans who suffer from the traumas of war,” says Rev. Michael Wurschmidt of Shepherd’s Heart. Their House of Hope offers transitional housing for male veterans, including rehabilitation, counseling and food until they are stable and ready for independent housing.

The pandemic has created an overwhelming demand for food, housing, mental healthcare and just about every other basic need. To meet these problems head-on, The Pittsburgh Foundation and its donors will provide $425,000 in incentive funds for Allegheny County — and The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County will provide $25,000 in incentive funds — to the Critical Needs Alert on Wednesday, August 19. It will make every donation from the public go further.

“Any time we can have a Critical Needs day like this with The Pittsburgh Foundation, it helps us to be able to function and provide services to those who are hurting. It’s a wonderful day,” says Wurschmidt.

Everyone is invited to contribute to the Critical Needs Alert, or #ONEDAY, at, to help more than 190 local nonprofits serving those most in need. The focus is on five areas within the safety net of human services: childcare, food and nutrition, housing, physical and mental health, and transportation.

Last year, the online giving event raised its highest amount ever, $1.67 million, including $865,000 from the public and $800,000 from the incentive funds.

The funds will help Shepherd’s Heart in Uptown to replenish their Emergency Fund, for one.

Carl Jay, program director of Shepherd’s Heart Veteran’s Home called House of Hope.
Carl Jay, program director of Shepherd’s Heart Veteran’s Home called House of Hope.

They’ve also got a food pantry, a shuttle bus, a drop-in center that has breakfasts and showers, a clothing resource center, and an Emergency Fund that offers help with food, rent, utility and debt relief.

“We work exclusively with the poor,” explains Wurschmidt. “The poor can be defined in many, many ways — poor financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically. The people who come to Shepherd’s Heart every day are either homeless or on the edge of homelessness. We have breakfast, coffee, showers, clothing. We have a lot of resources that help people who don’t know where to go to for help.”

For example, a 62-year-old veteran named John came to Shepherd’s Heart after being released from prison, with nowhere else to go.

“Years and years ago he struggled with addictions, but has been clean for many years,” says Wurschmidt. “We’re in the process of helping him find his own housing, and at the same time, reconnect with his loved ones…It’s part of my role to help bring reconciliation.”

To keep the coronavirus at bay, they have a “one door” policy, where everyone has to come in the same door, get their temperature checked, wear a mask and use hand sanitizer. Veterans have been hired to be on cleaning detail, disinfecting Shepherd’s Heart vigorously.

The work is never easy, but there’s always someone willing to help.

“I’ve never been prouder that the good Lord brought my wife and I and our kids to this community,” says Wurschmidt. “Because it’s an amazing community. It’s a community that serves each other, loves each other, supports each other, defends each other…and is willing to lay down their lives for each other. It’s a real privilege to have a ministry like Shepherd’s Heart in Pittsburgh.”

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.