Buffalo, NY –Today, Mayor Byron W. Brown was joined by the Director of Fair Housing and Homeless Services for the Restoration Society, Jean Bennet; the Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, Dale Zuchlewski; and the Executive Director of Buffalo Housing Opportunities Made Equal, DeAnna Eason to announce an expansion of the City’s homeless support services work in response to the growing economic crisis which has followed the COVID-19 public health pandemic.
Mayor Brown said, “We are aggressively, and comprehensively, addressing the continuing economic distress residents, especially single mothers and people of color, are experiencing as the impacts of the COVID-19 public health pandemic grow. The City’s Emergency Solutions Grant program is allowing us to do this now, but more support is going to be needed when rent moratoriums end, housing court resumes hearings, and employment opportunities continue to be reduced. I, along with the City’s network of partners, am calling on the federal government to increase housing aid and pass the flexible federal aid that Buffalo and other state and local governments need to strengthen their economies and support the needs of our residents.”
Of the 1,268 homeless who have been served across the City of Buffalo in different shelters to date, there is a disproportionately high number of resident who are Black (46%), 12% of the population is Hispanic, almost a quarter (23.5%) are under the age of 25, almost one in ten are families, and 92 residents are over the age of
62. These demographics demonstrate that previously existing vulnerable communities are being more severely impacted by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and are at higher-risk for future housing and financial insecurity.
Through the two COVID-19 related Emergency Solutions Grants the City has already allocated almost $7.1 million in direct service operations, rapid rehousing efforts and rental assistance. The conversion of the Lincoln Community Center into a homeless shelter is one example of how the funds have been used to use existing infrastructure to meet the new challenges that City residents are now facing as a result of the Pandemic.
Additional U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development support through a special, supplemental allocation of Community Development Block Grant funding will also be available this Fall to support other housing and neighborhood stabilization efforts. However, it is anticipated that additional specific homelessness services and prevention funding will be required as this population is likely to grow over the coming months and housing becomes more difficult to secure.
Nancy Singh, CEO of the Restoration Society said, “We are happy to have moved mountains here during the height of the pandemic to keep people safe and also to bring needed resources and services to them while sheltered. We are fearful of the fall out of peoples housing stability due to the inability to pay rent for several months. and anticipate a significant increase in the need for assistance.”
Dale Zuchlewski of the Homeless Alliance of WNY said, “While we are thankful that funding is being provided for those who are currently homeless, these funds are only a small portion of the amount needed to house every homeless person and even more is needed to assist the thousands of more that are facing potential eviction in the coming months.”
DeAnna Eason of Housing Opportunities Made Equal said, “This current health pandemic has given rise to a housing crisis that catastrophically effects our most vulnerable and disenfranchised populations. It will take the cooperation and solidarity of the community to make sure that the residents of Buffalo are sheltered and have a safe place to call home during this difficult time.”
Pastor James Giles, President and CEO of Back to Basics Ministries said, “The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the economy of this region, as well as on its public health. And housing has been one of the economic sectors that has been most impacted. As residents lost the ability to pay rent many programs were losing the tools they had to care for the homeless. The federal government must take this situation into consideration as they craft the next round of stimulus funding.”
A full list of the organizations that have received Emergency Solutions Grant funding is available on the City of Buffalo’s website, www.buffalony.gov.