By: Michael Knott (AmeriCorps VISTA at Homeless Alliance of WNY):
Ending homelessness in Western New York is no easy task, but collective thinking can put this goal on the right track. A major step to this progress is streamlining the services that combat homelessness. On September 19th, people experiencing homelessness won’t have to hustle across the city to get help–a lot of services, and a lot of caring people, will all be in one place–the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
Project Homeless Connect is on Monday September 19th, from 10am to 4pm at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. This event is presented by the WNY Coalition for the Homeless, and you can still volunteer or give to support this event! Email Project Homeless Connect Buffalo or visit their website to sign up or get more information.
This event is a national best practice model that fuses political and civic will in a one-day, one-stop array of resources to provide hospitality and support. Project Homeless Connect works to welcome homeless neighbors into the life of the community, change the way resources are accessed, and achieve quantifiable results for people experiencing homelessness.
The “under one roof” offerings for consumers and the “mobile hospitality” of volunteers who act as escorts and conductors for their homeless neighbors help lower their barriers and achieve results. More than 300 clients attended last year’s event and were able to receive a wide variety of services from over 70 providers, such as dental care, HIV testing and legal services.
This program has also warranted strong support from the U.S. Conference of Mayors which commends the project for “helping cities welcome people experiencing homelessness back into community life” and “encourages and supports the increased involvement of Mayors in creating Project Homeless Connect events and throughout the year in proven strategies that end homelessness.”
In fall of 2008, the United States Census Bureau released a special report naming Buffalo as the third poorest large city in the United States, with approximately one-third of its adult population living below the poverty line, and 42% of its children living in poverty. Approximately 2,000 people (including people in families) are homeless on any given night in Buffalo, a number that has not changed dramatically in recent years. By incorporating Project Homeless Connect into Mayor Brown’s Poverty Initiative, our area will not only improve the system of care by creating opportunities for collaboration and sharing of best practices but also streamline the services provided to homeless individuals in our area making it more cost effective and efficient.
Buffalo is the City of Good Neighbors and regardless of our economic standings, our citizens have shown an unwavering dedication to the city and its people. Project Homeless Connect will allow us to demonstrate on a national level our ability to evoke change within our community by having the public and private sectors working side-by-side in a new configuration, with a focus on problem solving and results.