Archive for the ‘education’ Category

We invite you to join us for the 2010 Buffalo Poverty Challenge!

The Poverty Challenge is an exercise aimed at transforming how our community thinks about poverty and how to end it. Participants can attempt to live on the budget of a minimum wage worker or on the budget of someone at the federal poverty level.

Prominent local politcal, community, and business leaders like Mickey Kearns of Buffalo’s Common Council, Aaron Bartley of PUSH, and the Vukelic family of Try-it Distributing have taken the challenge. Visit www.povertychallenge.com to see their blog posts and videos about the diffculties they faced living at the poverty level.

This year we are partnering with www.WNYmedia.net who will be hosting the Poverty Challenge on their website.

To participate send an email to:


Write “I want to take the Poverty Challenge” in the subject.


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Buffalo Poverty Research Workshop

Friday, February 26, 2010
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Networking Reception: 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Merriweather Library
1324 Jefferson Avenue (at E. Utica) | Buffalo, New York 14208

Buffalo Poverty Research Workshop – Flyer (pdf)

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That may seem like a ridiculous question.  Part of the reason I came to Buffalo was because I thought it was probably the most affordable place to live in the state*.  But the Center for Housing Policy‘s recently released report entitled Paycheck to Paycheck serves to remind us that for many working people, owning a home or even renting a 1BR apartment in Buffalo is unaffordable.

The report compares the wages of 60 occupations with the wages necessary to afford the cost of an average home ($100,000 including all associated costs) or the Fair Market Rent for a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment in different states and metropolitan areas.  Housing  is usually considered affordable if it amounts to 30% of your budget.  For example, CHP calculates the income needed for a one-bedroom apartment by multiplying the Fair Market Rent for a one bedroom apartment by 3, which would roughly give you the income needed for that month to afford the apartment.  That monthly number is then multiplied by 12 to get the yearly income necessray.

The report found that while the wage necessary to afford a home decreased (much of that having to do with declining home prices) the wages for many occupations, construction-related occupations in particular, still are not high enough to afford a home and in severe cases a two-bedroom apartment.  Fair Market Rents continued to increase in most areas, which is very troubling given the big increases in unemployment and that renting is usually the more affordable option for low-income people.

The homeownerhsip and rental information for Buffalo, a town that most people consider a very cheap place to live, is also very troubling.  Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment increased from $704 in 2008 to $723 in 2009, a 2.7% increase.  Even more disturbing are the number of service sector wages that are not high enough to afford a one or two bedroom apartment, let alone a home.

Consider these graphs which show the income needed to afford a home, one bedroom, or two bedroom apartment in Buffalo along with the incomes of a selection of service sector occupations (which represents a large portion of the employment available in Buffalo):

Annual Income Needed to Afford a Home

homeownership 1

Other occupations that did not earh enough to afford a home included: hairdresser, home health aide, housekeeper, janitor, laundry worker, nursing aid, office clerk, packager, parking lot attendant, receptionist, retail salesperson, school bus driver, security guard, stock clerk, stock mover, telemarketer, and wait staff.


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The Buffalo News Published an outstanding editorial on poverty in Buffalo.  The editorial was the lead Sunday editorial which is considered in journalistic circles as the most prestigious of placements.

The article mentions the Homeless Alliance and we are grateful for the mention.  More importantly however is the fact that the News outlines the same policy recommendations that the Alliance has been making for some time now.

Buffalo slips in standings

But new rank as third-poorest city still stands as a mark of shame

Updated: 08/31/08 6:29 AM

Buffalo earned no bragging rights by dropping from the second-poorest big city in the nation to No. 3. Statistically, there’s not much difference at all. Emotionally, the truth still hurts — more than one of every four city residents is living in poverty.

The latest estimate by the U. S. Census Bureau puts Buffalo at third-poorest and still claiming one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, at 28.7 percent last year. Detroit maintained its No. 1 spot at 33.8 percent, highest among cities with more than 250,000 people, and Cleveland followed at 29.5 percent. That all three are Great Lakes cities does nothing to enhance our image, or our community psyche.

Poor is poor, and slicing the statistics thinly doesn’t much help, according to Wende A. Mix, an associate professor in the geography and planning department at Buffalo State College. “Statistically, there’s no change,” Mix said.

Bill O’Connell, executive director of the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, said he also sees no change from a practical viewpoint and, therefore, no room for political back-slapping. The numbers remain a city disgrace, and to put any kind of a positive spin on the latest ranking would be to miss the point.

Moving people from poverty to economic self-sufficiency should be a factor in community decision-making, and a measure of success in policy-setting and in projects from neighborhood improvements to job-creating attractions on the waterfront. Every strategy and every ribbon-cutting should be backed by the promise of family-wage jobs.

Small neighborhood businesses also must be a part of that mix, encouraged by the city as both a solution to the transportation woes of the impoverished and as cornerstones for neighborhood redevelopment.

With so many residents already living in poverty and many more only a missed paycheck away from disaster, help programs also need encouraging. Experts say millions of dollars are left on the table each year in federal funds for food stamps simply because people are not applying — either because of difficulty in accessing the services, embarrassment in applying or lack of knowledge of available resources.

There’s room here for everyone to help. Western New York’s key charities, the United Way and Catholic Charities, are struggling to gain enough donations to continue providing outreach services and such referral help lines as the 211 number at current levels, let alone expand to meet expanding needs. Job creation may be the goal, but social services programs — whether governmental or charity-based — can provide a needed bridge.

This community should look at poverty not just as a disgrace but as a solvable problem. It’s important to break the pattern of poverty. That can start with viewing economic development through poverty’s lens, and the statistical rankings can provide some focus. Clarity includes recognition that poverty is not always an individual problem. Housing costs, health care, transportation and municipal demolition choices all make a difference in terms of community poverty or success. And what Brookings Institution analysts term “smart policies” that foster more integration throughout metropolitan areas, while linking residents of impoverished neighborhoods to labor markets and private investment, can make a big difference.

So now we’re not No. 2, we’re No. 3. But we still have to try harder — to keep slipping down that list.

Click below to find a .pdf version of the article.


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The New York Times published an article today, featuring Flint, Michigan and an innovative approach to reducing student turnover during the school year. The state Department of Human Services is offering a $100/month subsidy to low-income families, allowing them to stay in their current unit and/or avoiding future moves.

“House-hopping” is common in low-income areas, such as Flint, Baltimore and Buffalo. Many times, families are evicted for non-payment of rent, utilities are shut off or they are trying to flee unsafe neighborhoods or living conditions. This directly affects school-aged children by disrupting their school year, impeding educational and social development and also slowing down the pace of the classroom as teachers struggle to keep new or transfer students afloat.

The program was first piloted in two of Flint’s schools in 2004 with several important features. 40 families of second-graders were selected to participate, with the students staying with the same teacher and classmates for two years in a row. The rent subsidy was paid directly to the landlord, who agreed to maintain housing code and not raise the rent. Finally, the families were linked with a family resource center, located at the schools, allowing for access to services without having to wait in long, often impersonal lines at the Department of Social Services. Although results are preliminary and require more longitudinal data, the pilot group of students scored significantly better on standardized test and moved less.

According to the most recent Annual Homelessness Profile for Buffalo and Erie County (data from October 2006-September 2007), 897 children ages 17 and under were living in the homeless housing system. Not only are hundreds of our students homeless but with so many of our children living in poverty, the constant moves and turnover in schools is a great detriment to success. We would do well to remember that homelessness and poverty disproportionately affect children and should strive to take measures, such as what is being done in Flint, to eliminate the threats posed by educational instability.

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Recently, the New York Times reported that several large banks have revoked their backing of student loans to students attending community colleges, for-profit institutions and other less selective and competitive postsecondary institutions. Meanwhile, funding for students attending more selective, public and private, four-year institutions has remained intact and unchanged.

You may be asking yourself at this point, “Why is the Homeless Alliance blogging about this?” While you may be correct in assuming that this is not an issue related directly to homelessness, it does have implications for low-income folks.

Community colleges and for-profit institutions are often a route for low-income students who cannot afford attendance at more expensive institutions, and cutting tuition assistance to students accessing this form of postsecondary education seriously limits their options. In a time when it is widely believed that postsecondary credentials are a necessity to economic security and several research studies indicate that higher education is stratifying along class lines (ie. more affluent students are in attendance at the more prestigious institutions), a move to cut loans for students that may already be economically disadvantaged only serves to further exacerbate economic disparities between the haves and the have-nots.

Read the full story here.

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