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Erie County Veterans Service Agency Homeless Veterans Resource Center


Note: If you are experiencing a housing crisis, you can call Crisis Services' Homeless Hotline at 834-3131 OR visit the Erie County Department of Social Services Emergency Assistance Window #7, Rath Building - 95 Franklin Street in Downtown Buffalo.

Homelessness affects 195,827 veterans across the United States, according to the latest research compiled by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. While only 8% of America's population is comprised of veterans, they make up an eye-popping 23% of the homeless population - that's nearly three times the average of the civilian homeless population. New York State has a total population of 1,098,272 veterans - 21,147 of these are homeless. New York State also has the distinction of being ranked 9th on the list of states with the highest percentage of homeless veterans. Buffalo, officially named the second poorest city America according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has its fair share of homeless veterans.

Below is a list of resources and agencies available to the homeless veterans and low-income household population in Erie County and the City of Buffalo.

List of Resources and Agencies

The Buffalo Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program

The central goal of the Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Program is to end homelessness among veterans through outreach efforts and community partnerships. Veterans are engaged in treatment and rehabilitation programs to enable them to achieve a better quality of life. The telephone number for the Homeless Veterans Coordinator is (716) 881-5855, located in the third floor of the building at 1298 Main Street in Buffalo, NY 14215 (Directly above the St. Vincent DePaul Dining Room). The agency also administers HUD-VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) vouchers. For more information about VA homeless veteran programs, go to www.va.gov/homeless/.

Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition, Inc.

WNYVHC (also known as Veterans Life Ops) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Since 1987, they have been providing housing, job development, and services to more than 20,000 Buffalo and Erie County veterans who have had difficulty re-adjusting to civilian life. They are located at 25 West Utica Street in Buffalo, NY 14209. You may contact them at 716-882-5935 or e-mail them at home@veteranslifeops.org

Homeless Alliance of Western New York

The Homeless Alliance of Western New York was created in 1992 by the Erie County Legislature to find ways to reduce homelessness. By 2000, the Alliance had departed from their governmental roots, and now acts as an independent not-for-profit organization.

Their mission is to facilitate dialogue and strategic action between government, public, and private sectors to end homelessness. Working with local service providers and community leaders, they seek to maximize assistance available to homeless individuals and the agencies that serve them in the Western New York area through education, original research, advocacy and community planning. They are located at 286 Lafayette Avenue in Buffalo, NY 14213. You may reach them via phone at 716-853-1101 or by e-mail at: info@wnyhomeless.org.

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) is the resource and technical assistance center for a national network of community-based service providers and local, state and federal agencies that provide emergency and supportive housing, food, health services, job training and placement assistance, legal aid and case management support for hundreds of thousands of homeless veterans each year. NCHV promises to end homelessness among veterans by shaping public policy, educating the public, and building the capacity of service providers.

EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE

  • Police/Fire/Ambulance: 911
  • Crisis Services: 834-3131
  • Central Referral Services: 851-5555

UTILITIES AND BASIC NEEDS

GOVERNMENTAL

COMMUNITY RESOURCES

TRANSITIONAL HOUSING

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

LEGAL SERVICES

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

MENTAL HEALTH

SUBSTANCE ABUSE

EMPLOYMENT

SHELTERS

FOOD AND CLOTHING

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Homeless Shelters and Services

American Rescue Workers inc.
95 Johnson Park
Buffalo, NY 14203
852-3328
Food: 4:00 P.M.

Alcohol and Drug Crisis
291 Elm Street
Buffalo, New York 14203
(716) 854-2977
Detoxification Center

ARCA
P.O. Box 701
Ellicott St. Station
Buffalo, NY 14202
842-2750
Food, Shelter, & Services Can Be Arranged

Benedict House
2211 Main Street
Buffalo, New York 14214
(716) 834-4940

Buffalo City Mission
100 East Tupper
Buffalo, New York 14203
(716) 854-8181
Food, Clothing, Shelter and Services

Buffalo City Mission
Female Corner Stone Manner
45 Cariton Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
854-8181
Food, Clothing, Shelter and Services

Buffalo House
1515-117 Glenwood Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14209
(716) 882-0027 or 0028

CAO Homeless Program
70 Harvard Place
Buffalo, NY 14209
881-5150
Food, Shelter, Clothing Can Be Arranged
(Not A Soup Kitchen)

Case Di Vita
200 Albany Street
Buffalo, New York 14213
(716) 882-8898

Catholic Charities
525 Washington St.
Buffalo, NY 14203
856-4494
Services

Cazenovia Manor
436 North Legion Drive
Buffalo, New York 14210
(716) 822-8932

Centennial AME Zion Church
125 Doat Street
Buffalo, NY 14209
892-3043
Hot Meals (11:45 A.M. - 1 P.M.)

Cephas House
102 Seymour Street
Buffalo, New York- 14210
(716) 856-5790

Community Residence - Ivy House
2025 Broadway
Buffalo, New York 14212
(716) 892-7401

Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled
Safe House and Emergency Shelter (Project S.A.F.F.)
452 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14202-1515
(716) 883-8889

Compass House
370 Linwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14209
886-1351
Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Services

Crisis Services
2969 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214
834-3131
Aid and Referral Services, Rape Advocate Program, Homeless HOT LINE, Kids Helpline

Depth
501-499 Franklin Street
Buffalo, NY 14202
883-6762
Shelter & Services
(Depth Participants)

Emergency Housing/Transitional Services
336 Forest Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14213
(716) 886-0363

Erie County Department of Social Services:
156 Pearl Street
Buffalo, NY 14202
858-8850
Medicaid, Food Stamps

Franciscan Center
1910 Seneca Street
Buffalo, NY 14210
822-8017
Food, Clothing and Shelter
(Male Ages 16-21)

Friends of The Night People
394 Hudson Street
Buffalo, NY 14201
884-5375
Food Daily (11 A.M. - 1 P.M.)
(4 P.M. - 7 P.M.
Shelter of Last Resorts

Good News Dining Room
80 West Tupper St.
Buffalo, NY 14202
854-2175
Food (11:45 A.M. - 1 P.M.)

Grace and Hope Mission
218 Franklin Street
Buffalo, NY 14202
852-3328
Food (Mon. - Thurs.) (Sat. & Sun.)
7:30 P.M. - 8:30 P.M.
Clothing

Haven House
C/O Child & Family
330 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14207
884-6000
Battered Women & Children Only
Food, Shelter & Services

Helping Hands
382 Massachusetts Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14213
881-3043
Meals (11 A.M. - 1 P.M.) (Mon. to Sat.)
Clothing, Shelter can be arranged

Hope House
335 Grider Street
Buffalo, New York 14215
(716) 892-8224

Housing Assistance Center of Niagara Frontier Inc.
1233 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14202
881-2200
Shelter (9 P.M. - 4:30 P.M.)

Ignatia House
77 Alsace Street
Buffalo, Now York
(716) 824-2142

Lake Shore Community
Mental Health Center
Psychiatric Services
Buffalo, NY 14201
856-9711

Little Portion Friary
1305 Main Street
Buffalo, New York 14209
(716) 882-5705
Food, Clothing, Shelter and Services

Loaves and Fishes Dining Room
875 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222
882-1861
Food 12:30 P.M.

Neighborhood Legal Services inc.
495 Ellicott Square Building
295 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
847-0650
Administrative Entitlements, Family Law, Housing, Handicapped Rights

New Refuge House (Managed by Benedict House)
336 Virginia Street
Buffalo, New York 14201
(716) 881-3082

Nursing Center for The Homeless
716 Kimball Tower SUNYAB
Buffalo, NY 14214
831-3842
Nursing Services Through Clinics On Site At City Mission, Safeway House Salvation Army, & Friends Of The Night People, Referral Services W. Staff Social Worker.

Response To Love Center
St. Adalbert's Basilica
130 Kosclusco St.
Buffalo, NY 14202
894-7030
Dining Room Mon. - Thurs. (10:45 A.M. - 1 P.M.)

Salvation Army
Women's Shelter
960 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14209
883-9800
Food, Shelter & Services

Salvation Army Rehabilitation Shelter
1080 Military Road
Buffalo, New York, 14207
(716) 875-2533
Male Rehabilitation, but will Take In An Emergency Food, Shelter, and Services

South Buffalo
Community Table
165 South Side Pkwy.
Buffalo, NY 14220
822-3193
Food (4 P.M. - 5:30 P.M.)

St. Vincent DePaul Dining Room
Our Lady Of Lourdes RC Church
1107 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14209
883-9570
Food (11 A.M. - 12:45 P.M.)

VA Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program
1298 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14209
881-5855
Clothing, Laundry, Shower & Computer Lab

VIVE-La Casa
50 Wyoming Street
Buffalo, New York, 14215
(716) 892-4354

YWCA - Transitional Housing Program
245 North Street
Buffalo, New York 14201
(716) 884-4761
Transitional Services
Non-Emergency Housing
9:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.

Zion House in Avon, NY
www.zion-house-avon.org

Each resident has their own bedroom, and shares common areas and shares in the operation of the house with community meals.

  • The house is for Women only, we are not set up to take families.
  • If the vet is VA qualified (receives VA benefits), Zion House requires financial assessment of 30% of income
  • If Vet does not qualify for per diem VA benefits, then Rent is $700/month
    • housing, food and transportation
    • work hours at on site work rehab program to offset some of rent
  • Women need to be clean of drug and alcohol use
  • Case Management assistance available

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Veteran Specific Highlights

23% of homeless population are veterans
33% of male homeless population are veterans
47% Vietnam Era
17% post Vietnam
15% pre Vietnam
67% served three or more years
33% stationed in war zone
25% have used VA Homeless Services
85% completed high school/GED compared to 56% of non-veterans
89% received Honorable Discharge
79% reside in central cities
16% reside in suburban areas
5% reside in rural areas
76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems
46% white males compared to 34% non-veterans
46% age 45 or older compared to 20% non-veterans

Service Needs:
45% help finding job
37% finding housing

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Buffalo and Erie County's 10-Year Action Plan to end Homelessness

The Homeless Alliance of Western New York developed a ten-year strategic plan - PRISM, A Community Solution to Homelessness - that represents a reorientation of the homeless service community, Erie County and of the City of Buffalo toward ending, not merely relieving, homelessness. This plan is as revolutionary as it is unique, calling for a systematic addressing of community needs and seeking broad community alignment toward common goals, stressing information gathering, sound research, collaboration, cooperation, and a commitment to change.

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What you can do to help the local homeless veterans population

  • Volunteer your time at local soup kitchens and shelters.
  • Donate money, clothes or foods to local veterans organizations that support homeless programs, such as the American Veterans (Amvets), American Legion or the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program.
  • Advocate by encouraging your local legislator to craft policies that address the needs of homeless people.
  • Employ local veterans at your company - Hire a vet!
  • Respect those who are homeless and be kind to them. Most of the damage resulting from homelessness is caused by the feeling of being treated as though you don't exist. Take a few minutes to get to know them and ask how you can help them.

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Homeless Veterans Video Center

Homeless Vets

An estimated 200,000 veterans are calling the streets home, according to an advocacy group. CBS News' Michelle Miller reports on the plight of returning soldiers with nowhere to live.

Thrift Store Helps Homeless Veterans Rebuild Lives

A thrift store that helps all veterans who left the military with anything other than an honorable discharge, by selling furniture and other household items and providing a place of employment for homeless veterans.

Homeless Veterans Provided Services at Stand Down

Veterans who are homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless were provided services - medical, dental and employment included - during the county-sponsored Homeless Veterans Stand Down in Stockton Jan. 30.

Homeless Veterans Speak Out

Homeless veterans in Sacramento talk about their need for federal assistance.

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Homeless Veterans Online Articles

Veterans Make Up 1 in 4 Homeless
Story 11/07/2007

"Lonnie Bowen Jr. was once a social worker, but for 17 years the Vietnam war veteran has slept on the streets off and on as he's battled substance abuse and mental health problems. "It's been a hard struggle," said Bowen, 62, as he rolled a cigarette outside a homeless processing center in downtown Philadelphia, where he planned to seek help for his drug and alcohol problem, as he has before..."

More Veterans Calling the Streets Home
Story 3/25/2007

"He fought in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, where a sniper's bullet took his best friend. "His head got blown off - I get nightmares about that," said Elgoarany. The Muslim-American sailor drowned that pain in alcohol, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller, but drinking only led to an early discharge..."

From Hero to Homeless
Story 3/25/2005

"When "Iraqi Freedom" began, Private First Class Herold Noel was a soldier in the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, pounding a path into Baghdad. "I fought for this country," he said. "I shed blood for this country. I watched friends die." And like so many, Herold Noel came home a hero, but he wound up homeless. He started living out of the back of his jeep when most of his clothes and all of his military medals were stolen at a homeless shelter..."

Homeless veterans find hope
Army veteran Roy Foster started Stand Down House to help veterans struggling with addiction and homelessness in Florida. Whether in a vacant lot behind a supermarket or a small clearing off the highway, homeless vets aren't that hard to find: One in three homeless adults has served in the military, and more than 150,000 veterans nationwide are homeless on any given night, according to the Veterans Administration.

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Homeless Veterans in Erie County

By Sergio R. Rodriguez
Deputy Director, Erie County Veterans Service Agency

First published in the Winter 2009 (Volume 2, Issue 1) edition of the Erie County Veterans Service Agency Newsletter.

In this issue of the Erie County Veterans Service Agency newsletter, I take great pride in addressing one of the most overlooked realities facing our veterans today: homelessness. Homelessness affects 195,827 veterans across the United States, according to the latest research compiled by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. While only 8% of America's population is comprised of veterans, they make up an eye-popping 23% of the homeless population – that's nearly three times the average of the civilian homeless population. New York State has a total population of 1,098,272 veterans - 21,147 of these are homeless. New York State also has the distinction of being ranked 9th on the list of states with the highest percentage of homeless veterans. Buffalo, officially named the second poorest city in America according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has its fair share of homeless veterans.

In order to attain a more realistic perspective about the issues facing the homeless veterans population here in Erie County, I embarked on a journey of discovery. I first started by visiting the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program located at 1298 Main Street. It is appropriately situated on the third floor of the building that houses the St. Vincent DePaul's soup kitchen. The program's mission is to provide "supportive services for homeless veterans in our communities". A push of a button located right outside of the building will prompt the receptionist to buzz you inside. When fellow service officer Alyssa Ersing and I arrived at the Homeless Vets Center, we were welcomed by a friendly receptionist named Peggy. Peggy then introduced us to the program's coordinator, Herb Wittmeyer, who greeted us with a friendly smile and granted a tour of the facility.

The tour began with a showcase of the lounge area used by veterans to come in, relax and grab a cup of coffee while they take a break from the often gruesome weather and rough streets that adorn the nearby area. This place serves as a refuge of sorts for veterans who oftentimes feel belittled or demeaned by many of those whom they encounter in the outside world on a day-to-day basis. The tour continued with a look towards a room that lies right outside the reception area of the vet center. There, I was shown a laundry room reserved for use by homeless veterans. The laundry room became a reality through the efforts of the local American Veterans Organization (Amvets), who donated the washer and dryer. The laundry room is also connected to a shower for homeless veterans. As the tour continued, I encountered a gulf war era veteran making use of a computer resource lab, which again was graciously donated by the local Amvets organization.

We sat down in a meeting area where Herb introduced us to the center's HUD-VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) Coordinator, Donna Sherman and its Program Manager of Community Day Programs, Jill Murray. Here, we discussed the various programs and services offered to our homeless veterans. The center has been assigned with distributing HUD-VASH vouchers for qualified veterans who are in need of a place to stay. This program also provides a case worker assigned to the veteran with the ability to save them from eviction and set them up with public assistance before they become homeless.

Additionally, the center partners with the Department of Labor to facilitate job opportunities that provide preference consideration for veterans. Through partnerships with local veterans' agencies and organizations, the center provides significant mental health, substance abuse and readjustment counseling and resources. The center also provides a limited supply of winter clothing for veterans in need. The computer resource lab is often used by the veterans to search for housing opportunities or craft resumes. Special programs such as these are funded through a 'general post fund', which is replenished by donations made by local service organizations and individual donors.

So, what makes a veteran get to the point of homelessness? To answer this question, I was given the opportunity to speak with a veteran that has experienced being homeless recently. The gentleman, who goes by the name of John, served during the Vietnam era between 1960 and 1964- as he points out, this was around the time that President Kennedy was assassinated. John presents an interesting case as a homeless veteran. After leaving the service, he lived in Canada for 18 years and led a very successful life. However, John did not lead the life of just one person. During his years in Canada, he could be identified by five aliases and used three different names for official matters. When Canadian authorities finally caught on to what was happening, they stripped him of everything he had. After years of legal battles the Canadian government deported him back to the states.

When John arrived in Buffalo, he had nary a cent to his name. He experienced a culture shock from having been away from the American way of life for so long. As he walked up the streets of downtown Buffalo he figured they were filming a movie. "Why?" I asked. He tells me that in Toronto, they often must close off the streets to accommodate filming crews as they prepared to film a ghost town scene, and that is what downtown Buffalo reminded him of. I laughed it off, as I pictured the walled-up empty office spaces of the City's Main Street.

John lacked proper paperwork and identification documents, so it was very difficult for him to be considered for most social programs. Additionally, he was in need of prescribed heart medication that he could not afford. With nowhere to turn, John stumbled upon the doors of the homeless veterans program. Here, he was able to request a copy of his military discharge papers and was also given guidance as to how to obtain a picture I.D. from the VA healthcare administration on Bailey Avenue. These two documents allowed him to apply for social services and social security benefits. In the meantime, he found a temporary stay at Buffalo's City Mission. John now lives comfortably in an apartment in Buffalo and volunteers some of his time to assist other homeless veterans. "The VA owed me nothing... I never thought that I was entitled to anything - and now..." he pauses, realizing that if Canadian authorities had their way with him, he could have been locked up in jail for up to ten years, "...This is the most peaceful year I've had in almost twenty years".

Don, a veteran who had lost his job as an automotive industry employee also became a victim of homelessness. After having spent 23 years of his life in San Antonio he moved to Buffalo in search of a new life. Consequently, this forced him to look for jobs in other industries, such as putting up plastic fencing and seeking employment at numerous temporary agencies. Herb Wittmeyer was instrumental in getting Don some much needed assistance during a time of need. To this day, he still wakes up in fear and sweat from the explosions and sounds of fireworks during the 4th of July Holiday. Today, he considers himself a graduate of Buffalo's Homeless Veterans Program. He also volunteers much of his time at the center. Herb, he tells me, is a testament to Buffalo's heritage as the "City of Good Neighbors."

Their stories, however, are not reflective of how most veterans arrive to the state of homelessness. Vietnam Veterans who sacrificed so much for their country, were not welcomed home as heroes or liberators. The unpopular war often led people to focus misplaced hatred on those who put up their very lives to defend their country, regardless of where they were sent to fight. This feeling of rejection led many to escape society and enter into a state of solidarity. Like John, they too, found nowhere to turn to. Ironically, the streets offered an inner-sanctum - a private place where no one judges you. This state of depression leads many veterans of this particular era to be diagnosed with PTSD. It's a vicious cycle: they serve their country, but their country often fails to serve them. Today's heroes are often misunderstood and can hardly find anyone that they can relate with. Homelessness can sometimes be a step closer to another major epidemic affecting our veterans today: suicide. In our next issue of the Erie County Veterans Service Agency Newsletter, I will be discussing the alarming rate of suicide amongst our veterans population and what we can do about it.

Help for Homeless Veterans


"For the first time in my life I'm happy"

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