January 23, 2020

Cynthia Shields (2017-2018), who helped Pittsburgh diversify the talent pool for jobs in the local construction industry, is an assistant deputy in Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services. She oversees housing and homelessness programs and is working to ensure that everyone in Allegheny County has a home.

How did the FUSE fellowship impact you?

My year as a fellow impacted me professionally and personally in many ways. I gained an understanding of how local government operates in a way that only experience can teach you. I enhanced the connections I had in the workforce space, and I created new connections with local and national partners.

FUSE helped provide resources and tools that I was able to leverage for the benefit of the Pittsburgh workforce. For example, through FUSE we hosted an innovation workshop, which is designed to help groups think outside of the box to solve sticky problems. That workshop helped the city’s Department of Human Resources and Civil Service crowdsource ideas that they used to increase equitable hiring efforts.

I’ve also connected with people with whom I hope to maintain lifetime relationships. I remember sitting in the first day of my FUSE orientation and being blown away by the intelligence and experience of all the fellows. Now those incredible people are part of my network, and I rely on them to suggest ideas, connections, and new perspectives that expand my thinking.

What are you working on now, and what do you hope to achieve in the next 6 months?

I’m still in local government, working for Allegheny County. Right now, I’m focused on a few projects. My team is exploring the intersection of housing, place, and economic mobility with the hope of launching a pilot that connects more low-income families with housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods.

I’m also using my background in workforce development to create stronger connections between homelessness services and employment services to increase mobile equity. To provide people experiencing homelessness with the support and services needed to stabilize their housing, we’re working to build a low-barrier shelter.

We also recently received a $3.49 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement strategies that end youth homelessness. During the next six months, we’ll be creating a coordinated community plan with diverse stakeholders from across the county to develop our shared strategy for ending youth homelessness.

News and Press About Shields’ Work:

Allegheny County receives $3.49 million federal grant to help reduce youth homelessness

County Selected for National Initiative Addressing Homelessness, Employment

Photo Credit: William Real on Flickr