Verna was assigned to the Matt Urban Hope Center as part of the Erie County Safety Net Achievement Program. We enrolled her into our Hope Works for welfare recipient: job development program. After an initial assessment was completed of Verna’s needs we discovered that she was staying at shelter with her teenage daughter and needed assistance with housing. Verna was then linked to our Homeless Outreach team and attended the Hope Center’s Housing Workshop. Verna also took advantage of the other workshops and resources the hope Center had to offer including clothing and job search assistance.
Verna came in each day working as our secretary- answering phones and filing- refining her clerical skills. Verna learned how to develop a excel sheet for our donors and maintained our contact list as well as our volunteer database. During this time Veran went on job interview and was able to use our director as a reference as she worked directly with Verna on her job skills and day to day tasks.
On the housing front Verna worked with Linda Dougherty to secure apartment viewings and also to secure a emergency section 8 voucher. This was possible because of our collaborative work with Belmont Shelter Corporation. Verna’s option for safe and more affordable housing opened up with the voucher. Shortly after receiving the voucher Verna was able to move into a safe and affordable apartment with her daughter.
As with all of our hard workers from the job development program- we knew Verna time with us would be short because of her work ethic and she did. Verna was hired by the Buffalo Niagara Airport. She quickly stated after announcing her employment if the Hope Center ever had an opening to call her. She stated she loved her time here and knew she was placed here by for a reason. Verna was extremely grateful for the center assistance with her housing, section 8 and employment.
We miss Verna but as with all our success stories we are grateful to have been able to assist her receive due to the support of the United Way –helping individuals like her on their own pathway to prosperity.
Our Outreach team had been engaged with John since 2008. He lived on the streets, but was never willing to give us his direct location. We usually met up with John at the bus station, or at one of the local soup kitchens. John was very guarded and often displayed angry behavior. On one occasion, John became very aggravated at one of our outreach workers, and claimed that no one ever helped him. Whenever applying for housing, he was only given the option of a rooming house – which, as he correctly pointed out – are usually filled with drug addicts and have substandard conditions. John had no income, no food stamps, and no insurance. He lived in a parking garage downtown which he referred to as his “penthouse suite.” He spent much of his life working with demolitions, until his body “broke down.”
It was approximately seven months after that night when John approached our team and asked to be a part of the new program he had heard about. He apologized to the workers with whom he had lost his temper and admitted he couldn’t spend another winter out in the elements. Within weeks, John was given the keys to his own apartment, which was located in the Allentown District of Buffalo. John was ecstatic at the thought of having his own place. His Housing First case manager worked with John to establish food stamps and Medicaid. John also applied for his Social Security benefits. Within six months of entering the program, some basic benefits (food stamps, Medicaid, SafeLink) were established for John and he was linked to a primary care physician and a dentist. John was able to get a dental work up and was eligible for full set of dentures. John was awarded Social Security and received back payments in the amount of $2,307, bringing his total annualized benefits secured to $18,231.
John has established a trusting relationship with his case worker and after many visits gave some insight to his past homeless situation. He has also seen the benefits of being able to talk through some of his issues and feelings and has agreed to some outpatient counseling. He has changed his mind about a service he once called “useless.” With his income and entitlements in place we are focusing on assisting John in growing his social support system. He has attended some of the Hope Center’s activities but explains that he is not very social. We are assisting him in his goal to take computer classes so he can perform abilities such as email. He has started to re-establish his family relations, reaching out to his foster parents and making plans to visit them in the near future. We continue to encourage him to partake and assist us in improving and developing the program as he knows best what the clients we serves needs would be.
John’s story touches on the very core of what the Hope Center is about. As he put it, “You made me feel like a human again for this first time in a long time.” That is our goal for each of our clients at the Matt Urban Hope Center.
We had been looking for her. The Code Blue van went out every night when the temperatures went below a frigid 15 degrees. Our Outreach Team at the Hope Center had not seen her a few days and was concerned for her safety.
Walking past the small opening between buildings, I thought I noticed a movement. I would have missed her if I didn’t look twice. There she was, sitting on a park table, head down, sleeping. It was below 15 degrees on a January night in Buffalo and she was sleeping in the snow. She had made a spot for her head on the table, pushing the snow to a pile on the opposite side of the table. She placed a newspaper on the cleared area to use as a barrier to the cold, cement top. She was petite, not that you would have known with the layers of clothes she wore. She was approximately sixty years old with a crack in her voice that was a result of the cold weather. I offered her my arm to help guide her to the van. She took it and I could feel her frail, calloused hand squeeze my arm.
That night, instead of taking her to the shelter to sleep on a cot that she would have to leave the next morning, I was able to take “Mary” to a small, warm studio apartment. In the ride to the apartment, Mary said she had worked all her life and could get Social Security, but felt that that was meant for extreme situations. She did not feel sleeping outside in the cold was such a situation. I gave her keys, food and promised I would return in the morning to check on her. Mary asked if she could stay all night. I replied that this was now her home, if she wished; a stepping stone to the next phase in her life. I apologized for not having the apartment furnished. Mary thanked me gratefully with a smile on her face.
Mary also revealed that night that she was embarrassed by her situation. Not only will our outreach case manager continue to work with Mary to ensure a secure housing environment and a stable support system, but we’ll also focus on rebuilding her self-worth.
Cynthia, a mother of three was referred to the Hope House from Department of Social Services with the goal of finding housing. Cynthia was receiving some financial assistance but it was not enough to afford a three bedroom apartment for her and her children. Two of Cynthia’s children were about to enter school but needed a physical. The Hope House’s Housing Specialist was able to secure an emergency section 8 voucher for Cynthia then a three bedroom apartment. The Hope House’s child specialist helped to set-up an appointment for the children to get physicals for school and secured primary care physician for the children. The case management team at the shelter work with Cynthia to develop a support system that she could rely on once she left the shelter. They also helped Cynthia learn coping skills to deal with the trauma she and her family were experiencing.
Once a move out date of the shelter was set Cynthia began working with our aftercare specialist to talk about her future plans. Cynthia is currently receiving financial help from the Department of Social Services. She is assigned to the Matt Urban Center to complete her work hours. We enrolled her into our Hope Works job skills program at the Matt Urban Hope Center. Cynthia is completing her hours but also learning the soft skills needed to obtain and retain employment. Cynthia is working in the kitchen, helping prepare meals for the Urban Diner. We assist Cynthia in supplementing her income through our food pantry assistance and essential pantry. We will continue to work with her until employment is secured. Cynthia and her children are a part of the Hope Center system of support, we will continue to assist her until full self sufficiency is achieved .