Archive for October, 2007

Child Poverty in Buffalo

In response to the announcement made on this past August that Buffalo is the 2nd poorest city in the nation, the Buffalo News has begun a series on child poverty in Buffalo. Much like the series in 2006 entitled “The High Cost of Being Poor“, this series attempts to bring to light the struggles of those experiencing poverty in Buffalo – recognizing the paradox of poverty locally. Reporter Mark Sommer “notes that because of Buffalo’s segregated housing, most Western New Yorkers never see the poverty. What has resulted is a paradox’. Poverty in Buffalo is both widespread and invisible,’ Sommer says.”

Editor Margaret Sullivan writes about the series:

This series is squarely on task with the mission that this newsroom has developed: enterprise journalism that makes a difference in its community. Issues involving economic justice and children are of particular interest.

So far, the series has highlighted child hunger, the pressure of single-parent households trying to make ends meet on unsustainable wages, and the rescinding of federal funds for services for low-income families. This is all done through the eyes of those who are experiencing these struggles and those who are attempting to meet their needs.

The series is worth checking out. Read the stories here.

Visit the Homeless Alliance at www.wnyhomeless.org

Go to the top of the blog by clicking here. 

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MSNBC has done a series of stories on the economic state of the middle-class in America this month as a part of an ongoing series called Gut Check America. This series examines the erosion of the quality of life of those who could be considered being “middle class”. Many of the households they profile earn between $60,000-100,00 per year and yet are having a hard time making ends meet due to health care, housing, and transportation costs. One particular survey compares the cost of living to a single-income family in the mid-70’s (adjusted to inflation) and dual-income families today. The survey finds that mortgage costs have almost doubled, taxes have more than doubled, and health care costs have risen by 76% even with the second income to support the household.

In comparison, the median income of Buffalo residents in 2004 according to the US Census was $28,500.

A particularly interesting quote is from a husband and father of two from Washington State. Though he earns $70,000, just 8 percent less than the median income of his area ($75,600), he is unable to make a down payment on a home or obtain a mortgage due to high housing costs. He says:

“We are doing all the right things with our money and I feel like the dream of owning a home is still so out of reach for us… I just feel like our middle-class income should be enough and it’s not.”’

Read more here.

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Last month on the blog, we posted a link to the All-American Presidential Forum on PBS; a debate between Democratic presidential candidates on issues of poverty and racism.

On September 29th, Republican presidential candidates had their turn in a similar forum. Note that four of the Presidential candidates (former Mayor Rudy Guiliani, Sen. John McCain, Gov. Mitt Romney, and Sen. Fred Thompson) did not attend the debate.

watch or listen to the debate (or read the transcript) here.

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From our friends at the National Alliance to End Homelessness…

NAEH logo

On Wednesday, October 10, the full House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 2895, the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act of 2007.

Please call your House Members TODAY through WEDNESDAY and ask them to vote for H.R. 2895.

  • House offices can be reached via the Capitol Switchboard at 1-877-210-5351.
  • Call and ask the staff person who works on housing issues to vote for H.R. 2895, the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act, when it is considered by the House on October 10.
  • Describe how your community has been successful at moving people who have become homeless into permanent housing and demonstrate what you would be able to accomplish with more affordable housing resources.

H.R. 2895 would establish a Trust Fund to construct, rehabilitate, and preserve 1.5 million units of housing over the next 10 years. At least 75% of the new resources must produce or preserve housing affordable to extremely low income people. This would be the first new housing production program since 1990 and the only one focused on housing for households with the lowest incomes.

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Artvoice has published an interesting article outlining one of the many good ideas being promoted by our friends at PUSH.

So Many We Can’t Give ’em Away – by Peter Koch

“Though you’re probably not aware of it, the city has been giving away homes and vacant lots of land to responsible and willing citizens for years. Tucked into the city’s real estate office, the Urban Homestead Program has been very successful at helping homeowners grow their property by homesteading adjacent vacant lots. On the other hand, it has had little luck homesteading its own, vacant residential homes. One West Side community organization-PUSH Buffalo-is proposing a plan that builds on the current homesteading program to make it a more effective community stabilizer.”

Read the full article here

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There have recently been conversations around HUD including people living “doubled up” with family and friends for financial reasons in the definition of homeless. According to research put out by the National Alliance to End Homelessness in September 2007, “The data show that expanding the definition to include people who are doubled up for economic reasons would increase the current homeless population (744,313 on a given night) by 3.8 million. The amount that would have to be appropriated so that the amount of funding per homeless or doubled up person matched the actual amount of funding per homeless person in 2005 is $7.725 billion.”

Counting these folks would free up federal dollars to be allocated to help more people in this community. The Homeless Alliance agrees that these families should be accounted for in the homeless count of each community. It gives us a better picture of the true numbers of the homeless in Buffalo and Erie County and would allow us to better serve this population that currently is without resources.

The Boston Globe recently wrote an editorial on the issue of people living “doubled up” with friends or relatives. The Boston Globe article highlights this as a growing issue and also talks about possible resolutions and barriers to solving this problem.


On the edge, in borrowed homes

September 30, 2007

SOMETIMES THEY are called the invisible homeless or, more bluntly, couch-surfers. They are parents and children who crowd into other people’s homes, living “doubled up” with friends or relatives. Continue…

The New York Times also wrote an article in September highlighting this as a major problem in New York City and how the residents there are trying to fight back for services they feel they need.

A Challenge to New York City’s Homeless Policy


A score of families gather daily in the courtyard of a city office in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.

The parents spend time chatting at the picnic tables while children play tag on a few patches of grass.

The scene is gentle. But it poses a growing challenge to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s strategy for reducing homelessness. Continue…

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As our community continues to discuss housing-first strategies I think it important to post for educational purposes this compelling article from the New Yorker published last year. Macolm Gladwell does an outstanding job of outlining some of the arguments in favor of housing first strategies and in particular the safe-haven model that is so desperately needed locally. If all goes according to plan, Erie County’s first Safe-Haven should be in place sometime next year helping our community address chronic homelessness.
This article has been referenced many times by homeless advocates across the country. Many of you may have already read it. If you have already read it – read it again – it is compelling and striking.

Million Dollar Murry

Bob Erlenbusch, Board President for the National Coalition for the Homeless, responded to Gladwell’s article with a letter to the editor that thanked the article “for calling for an end to homelessness rather than continuing to merely manage homelessness” and went on to make a number of other important points such as the need to include families in the federal definition of “chronic homelessness” . This response is worth reading as well.

NCH response to Million Dollar Murray


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