Archive for the ‘study’ Category

Today the Census Bureau released findings on household income and poverty for 2007

The City of Buffalo, which ranked as the second poorest big city in America based on 2006 numbers, dropped one spot to number three behind the cities of Detroit, MI and Cleveland, OH.  Buffalo had a poverty rate of 29.9 percent based on 2006 census numbers and saw that rate drop to 28.7 percent for the overall population based on the new 2007 data.

The City of Buffalo has seen little to no improvement in its poverty level in several years and seems firmly entrenched in a battle for the bottom.

According to Bill O’Connell, Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance, the numbers highlight a lack of vision and political will to improve the lives of Buffalonians.

“The fact that so many children are growing up in poverty is a disgrace.  Some will try to spin these numbers as an improvement but lets keep the political back slapping to a minimum. These numbers are not numbers to be applauded. The high rate of poverty in Buffalo represents people who need real economic development that invests in people, small businesses, and neighborhoods. Hard-working families in Buffalo deserve better. The economic prosperity of all residents of Buffalo should be the lens by which we make all of our decisions as a community,” said O’Connell

According to the Alliance, economic development and prosperity can be achieved if the entire community comes together to right-size the city, take advantage of  the community’s assets and invests in neighborhood based small and medium size businesses rather than seeking silver bullet solutions to improving the economy.

The new report can be found at the following link:


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The Homeless Alliance has released its 2008 Street Survey Report and it can be read at http://www.wnyhomeless.org

There has been significant coverage of the story in our local media. The Buffalo News wrote the below article:

Buffalo News Street Survey Report Coverage

And WGRZ did the following report (video link):


We will be posting some salient points and highlights from the Street Survey Report here on the blog, so stay tuned!

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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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In an article published in the New York Times today, Mayor Nagin Of New Orleans was quoted as saying that the solution to homelessness was to purchase one-way tickets out of town. This insensitive and trite comment was later recanted and framed as a joke, but to thousands of homeless people in New Orleans, it wasn’t very funny.

After Hurricane Katrina, the homeless population doubled as the size of the city overall halved. In addition, the city lost 800 of its 2,800 beds designated for homeless people. A significantly increased population coupled with a 30% reduction in emergency and transitional housing for homeless has dealt a crippling blow to the post-Katrina city.

Making matters worse, appropriations and rental subsidies for low-income residents, as well as disabled homeless residents have been approved by the Senate but have yet to pass in Congress. Ironically, Congress approved millions to provide wraparound services for those in need once they have moved into apartments and gave hefty tax breaks to developers and construction companies to increase the affordable housing stock by setting aside units for low-income renters and even promisign 5% of units for the chronically homeless. What Congress did not do is approve money to help pay the rent, meaning that people most in need are not able to move into these units and those who are already in permanent supportive housing will lose their subsideis once they expire at the end of this year.

UNITY of Greater New Orleans, an agency that provides services to the homeless, went to one of the city’s largest encampments to talk to homeless residents about their experiences. Some of the most interesting highlights include:

  • Only 26% of clients surveyed were homeless before Hurricane Katrina
  • Contrary to popular belief, only 14% of people were not residents of New Orleans prior to Katrina.
  • 31% had lost their FEMA trialer or other rental assistance
  • 33% reported being a victim of a violent crime since becoming homeless
  • 75% had no medical insurance

While the situation in New Orleans is disheartening and somewhat unique due to natural disaster, we should not assume that our most vulnerable homeless people here in Western New York aren’t similary at risk. In January, we talked to 1,400 people about their backgrounds and experiences with homelessness but most of the survey respondents were already being housed. The Homeless Alliance is currently considering a similar effort, focusing exclusively on our street homeless, as it becomes evident that this often-overlooked segment of our homeless population could benefit from immediate outreach and assistance.

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Sometimes facts and figures – while demonstrating the needs of those who are poor in our communities – cannot accurately portray the experience of poverty in the minds and hearts of those who are living it.

Yesterday, the NY Times wrote an Op-Ed Column about how poverty effects children – how it literally can poison them and stunt their development, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

You can read the article by clicking here for the PDF version.

Or click “Continue Reading” to read it here.


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Apparently we got some great coverage of the issue on WIVB (Channel 4 here in Buffalo). If they post the story online then we will post a link here.

Our 6 pm count is up to 625 surveys given. Of course there may be some duplicates in that number but we have some questions within the survey that will allow us to remove duplicate surveys.

We will be moving our headquarters soon to our overnight location. I’m not sure if we will have internet access there but at least our phones should work a little better. If we can possibly blog overnight then we will.

Coincidently a nice article was in today’s Buffalo News in on the editorial page. A “My View” article by Cindy Selden that mentions the Homeless Alliance.

My View Article

Many thanks to all of our volunteers and the wonderful people working at the service locations today that allowed us in. Most of all, thank you to all those who took time out of thier days today to answer some questions.

Hopefully we will have more later.

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We are in the 6th hour of the Survey; 18 more to go. So far, 381 surveys have been returned.

I went to St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy for their lunch service to administer surveys. I prefaced each survey by letting the respondents know that they didn’t have to answer any question they were not comfortable with. All were willng to answer the questions and provide stories about their experiences. One respondent added at the end of the survey that “he was glad to participate if it meant it would help others in his situation”.

A few of the respondents looked at me and asked “So, is this really going to help anything?” A perfectly reasonable question to ask, I think, particularly when a stranger is asking questions about you, your family, your home, your income, whether or not you have a mental illness, etc, and you want to know its for a good reason.

I told them “well, this information helps us know what kind of services are working and what service the community needs to improve to lift folks out of poverty and homelessness”. One man nodded thoughtfully and said “That’s good. I hope what I have to say helps.”

What he and the many others that are being surveyed today have to say is vital to the work of this community. There are some commnities that develop 10-year plans based on what lawmakers and administrators feel are the best solutions. This community is a part of a growing movement that advances its goals to end homelessness and develops programs and services from the grassroots, from the voice of low-income people. And that is why we are doing this survey today, why 200 volunteers have given their valueable time, why 70 service providers have agreed to let these volunteers administer surveys, and why so many respondents are willing to give their time and share their experiences. Because everybody wants to see a change.

Devan DeCicco, Homeless Alliance Education Coordinator

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