BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB-TV) – A local agency that helps Western New York’s homeless population is getting a huge boost from the federal government, and the money could help programs here for years to come.
The Homeless Alliance of Western New York had been trying for three years to get Housing and Urban Development money that over 400 agencies across the country have been competing for.
This year, just 23 communities were selected for the grant money under HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, and Buffalo is getting nearly $3.6 million.
In 2017, Erie and Niagara counties had more than 900 homeless teens and young adults, and that’s the kind of statistic HUD challenged communities to focus on in their grant proposals.
The Homeless Alliance of WNY’s executive director, Dale Zuchlewski, says engaging homeless youth is the key to less homelessness.
“And particularly, housing them, and then keeping them housed. Finding employment, so it’s not just a shelter or something like that,” he said. “It’s the constant engagement to make sure that they’re stabilized early so they don’t become homeless again later on in life.”
Zuchlewski says it’s growing problem because this population is hard to identify, but with almost $3.6 million – which increases the Homeless Alliance’s usual budget by about 25 percent – he feels confident that local agencies will come up with innovative ways to find and reach homeless youth.
One idea, he said, is having a youth drop-in center because many won’t go to a stereotypical shelter.
“They’ll stay with a friend, or sometimes they’ll stay in unsafe situations; somebody taking advantage of them. So you want to get them out of that situation, and the key is identifying them,” Zuchlewski said.
The money awarded to the Homeless Alliance will be divided among the local agencies that propose the best ideas to find teens and young adults a stable home, and Zuchlewski hopes to get those programs up and running by next year.
“If you don’t have a place to live, you’re not concentrating on your schoolwork, homework isn’t even an issue. You’re just trying to survive the night,” he said. “So…$3.6 million sounds like a lot, but it’s a drop in the bucket of the need, so we’re going to have to focus on those most in need.”