Weekly Feature



2017-11-15 / Lifestyles

100 years later...Buffalo City Mission Continues to Serve Area's Homeless

Reporter
HOLLY LIPKA


Buffalo City Mission staff members stand before the 100th-year anniversary banner. From left are Michael Robinson, Doug Allen, Yvonne Banks, Aubrey Calhoun, Matt Brown, Mike Nigro and Elizabeth Brown. 
Photos by Sarah McIlhatten.Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Buffalo City Mission staff members stand before the 100th-year anniversary banner. From left are Michael Robinson, Doug Allen, Yvonne Banks, Aubrey Calhoun, Matt Brown, Mike Nigro and Elizabeth Brown. Photos by Sarah McIlhatten.Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com When the Buffalo City Mission opened its doors in 1917, it provided services similar to a soup kitchen, offering food and shelter to those in need. Today and 100 years later, its programs and facilities have expanded to help the thousands of homeless and impoverished individuals in Western New York gain life skills and education needed to become self-sufficient once again.

“Homelessness does not discriminate. It touches every race, every age, every faith, and our doors are open 24/7, 365 days of the year, helping everyone that is in crisis,” said Aubrey Calhoun, associate executive director at the Buffalo City Mission.

Around 6,000 people in Buffalo and Erie County are homeless. Out of these thousands of individuals, 83 percent had not experienced homelessness in the previous two years or are homeless for the first time. To provide relief, the mission offers not only emergency services but also long-term solutions with its Dream Transitional Housing Program. Homeless people enrolled in the program learn about housing management, employment and career development, health and wellness, spiritual growth, substance abuse and recovery services, financing, and socialization and parenting skills, all designed to help men, women and moms with kids successfully transition back into the community. The program is offered at both of the mission’s facilities: at the Men’s Community Center, located at 100 E. Tupper St., and at Cornerstone Manor, a women and children’s shelter.


Sandee Moore, culinary cook at the Buffalo City Mission, prepares Caesar salad to feed up to 500 people for a community dinner. Sandee Moore, culinary cook at the Buffalo City Mission, prepares Caesar salad to feed up to 500 people for a community dinner. Unlike other recovery programs, the Dream Program has no restricted timeline; people can stay at the mission until they have reached their personal and professional goals.

“Individuals can be in our program for six months or two years, or even longer. It really is designed for them to be successful and not return back into homelessness,” said Calhoun.

The mission also partners with Erie Community College, where transitioning residents can attend college or participate within ECC’s certificate programs. A High School Equivalency program is also available to mission residents at ECC and the University at Buffalo Educational Opportunity Center. Currently, 25 people at the mission are enrolled in these education programs.

“With research, we found the root cause of homelessness is poverty and lack of education,” said Calhoun. “Individuals can’t secure a career job and then they can’t afford safe housing. So, we developed the bridge where our residents can go to college for the very first time.”

Since the program was established four years ago, six individuals have graduated with high honors.

“I really enjoy seeing individuals who come into our programs for the first time and then seeing where they are when they graduate,” said Calhoun. “You really see miracles and how our programs transform lives.”

The mission will continue to progress in the next few years with a $15 million building expansion project for the Men’s Center. The project will double the size of the center and provide services for those experiencing homelessness and who may be on the path toward homelessness.

“We will never eradicate homelessness — but by providing services on the front end for those who are on the path towards becoming homeless, we can over time decrease the percentage of homelessness increasing year over year.”

The mission also recently launched its 2017 annual fall campaign, which will bring in 38 percent, or $2.3 million, of its operating budget.

“Ninety-six percent of all our donations come from individuals, businesses and churches, and the other 6 percent comes from other public sources,” said Calhoun. “So, we really rely on this community’s heart and compassion to give to those who are struggling with poverty and homelessness.”

For more information, to donate or sign up as a volunteer for the upcoming holiday season, call the mission at 854-8181 or visit www.buffalocitymission.org.

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