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3/28/13: Erie County Sees Rise in Homelessness in 2012


14% Increase from 2011 Includes Individuals and Families; ECDSS Actively Addresses Issue

ERIE COUNTY, NY— The Erie County Department of Social Services (“ECDSS”) reported today that 2,198 individuals were placed in emergency homeless shelters in 2012, an increase of 14% from 2011. Families with children accounted for approximately one-third of those placements, and are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. On an average night, 45 families and 76 homeless single adults are placed in shelter by ECDSS. As of March 26, 2013, ECDSS has made 518 placements in emergency shelter, with 148 of those being families with children.

“There are many reasons why individuals and families become homeless and it can affect anyone. The strain and damage it can do to individuals and families can be devastating,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Anyone facing the loss of their home doesn’t have to face that uncertainty alone. Help is available through Erie County and our network of partners to assist residents as they and their families return to stability and independence.”

Typically, families become homeless as a result of an unforeseen crisis, such as the loss of a job, medical emergency, domestic violence, motor vehicle accident, or death in the family that prevents them from being able to stay in their current housing. Most families are able to get out of homelessness quickly, with relatively little public assistance; the average length of stay for a family placed by ECDSS in an emergency shelter is 25 days. Short-term or one-time services such as rent assistance, housing placement services, or job assistance are also available.

“Understanding homelessness requires a grasp of several social issues: poverty, affordable housing, disabilities, and others,” said ECDSS Assistant Deputy Commissioner Karen Rybicki. “No two cases are the same, but there are many ways to help people who are in danger of becoming homeless.”

ECDSS has a specialized unit of eligibility examiners and caseworkers that provide intensive services to homeless individuals and those at risk of becoming homeless. The unit coordinates emergency shelter with local community partners such as the Buffalo City Mission, Salvation Army, and Haven House. In addition, the unit assists individuals with personalized housing plans, apartment searches, transportation expenses, storage of personal items, and the acquisition of items needed to establish a household.

“Erie County does an excellent job of working with homeless families,” said Dale Zuchlewski, Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance of Western New York. “When we do our Point in Time counts we rarely see families living on the streets.”

In addition to meeting the immediate needs of homeless individuals and families on a daily basis, ECDSS is also a participating member of the Buffalo and Erie County Poverty Coalition and the Western New York Coalition for the Homeless.

For more information:

On the Erie County Department of Social Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/

On the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, visit http://wnyhomeless.org/

On the Buffalo City Mission, visit  https://www.buffalocitymission.org/

On the Salvation Army of Buffalo, visit  http://www.use.salvationarmy.org/use/www_use_buffalo.nsf/

On Haven House, visit   http://www.cfsbny.org/programs/haven-house/