The dedication of four graduate students from the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business in collaboration with corporate partners and community organizations has resulted in creative help for those combating homelessness in the Pittsburgh area.
Over the Sept. 11-12 weekend, a portable handwashing station was installed at the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community building in Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood. This unique offering resulted from Katz’s first-ever Super Analytics Challenge, a community-based initiative, held in March 2021. Established to recognize the importance of leveraging business skills to positively impact critical social issues, the 2020-21 challenge focused on homelessness.
“Our team at Pitt Business worked alongside the University and Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) to examine scenarios that either led people and families into becoming homeless or factors which may prevent homelessness,” says Christopher Barlow, Director of Corporate Engagement and Career Management at Katz. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness was selected as our focus because of its increasing prevalence as a global issue.”
Pitt Business organized an advisory committee consisting of representatives from corporate partners at UPMC, Highmark, Accenture, SAP, the National Association of Counties, and the Pittsburgh Technology Council. Representatives not only helped shape the challenge, but served as executive coaches, analytical methods experts, and subject matter specialists who worked alongside the graduate students to share experience and knowledge and provide guidance on the proposed solutions.
The 2021 winning team included Master of Science students Carlos Gil, Rebecca Farabaugh, Xingyu Li, and Tianyang Xie. The team’s solution focused on delivering pop-up type services to high-need areas along with tracking access to basic needs so that Allegheny County can improve rates of transition to stable housing.
Their award was a 2021 Bridge Program fellowship supported by Accenture in collaboration with Love Beyond Walls, an Atlanta-based nonprofit, that has manufactured and deployed portable handwashing stations for use by homeless people in urban centers.
The weekend activities brought together representatives from Katz along with some of the partners, community organizations and State Rep. Jessica Benham, D-Carrick, among others.
“The idea for the handwashing stations came into concept at the beginning of the pandemic, when a friend experiencing homelessness expressed grave concern for his own safety,” says Terence Lester, founder and executive director of Love Beyond Walls. “Advice from health experts was to wash your hands often, but as frequented areas like libraries, restaurants and shelters were closing, he became more susceptible to contracting COVID as there was no place to wash his hands.”
“This project was a shining example of the power of combined creativity, human ingenuity, and dedication,” says Albrecht Powell, Accenture Pittsburgh Office Managing Director. “When we partnered with Katz for the Super Analytics Challenge, we had no idea where it would lead us. But by combining the creativity of the students, the human ingenuity of Accenture, our partnership with Love Beyond Walls, and the dedication and service of the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, the result was something that all of us are extremely proud of. We hope to continue our work together in the years to come.”
“Having the physical sinks installed at the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community organization brought home that through community partnership and the dedication of our students, we can make a real impact and difference in our communities—together,” says Barlow.
If you’re interested in getting involved in initiatives like the Super Analytics Challenge, please contact Christopher Barlow at email@example.com.