Volunteer at Home: Welcome Packages

The Matt Urban Center recently began leasing our Hope House apartments in the former Buffalo Public School #57 on Sears Street, which are supportive housing opportunities provided in partnership with BestSelf Behavioral Health. The tenants moving in have been homeless and many are arriving with nothing more than a few bags. More often than not, they do not have the basic items that one would use to set up a new home.
Those looking for an in-kind donation/volunteer at home opportunity can help our new tenants by assembling welcome packages to give them a head start in turning their apartments into an inviting home! See below for a list of items that our tenants need:
  • Shower curtain
  • Dish sponges
  • Wastebasket
  • Trash bags
  • Cooking Utensils
  • Full-sized sheet set
  • Laundry basket or hamper
  • Broom and dust pan
  • Dinnerware set
  • Silverware
Volunteers are free to choose which items they’ll include in their package (and add your own ideas if you’d like). Donations of any size and quantity are greatly appreciated and will help make our tenants feel more at home.
To donate a Welcome Package for a Hope House tenant or to get more information, contact Sarah Maurer, Development Director, at (716) 893-7222 x232 or smaurer@urbanctr.org.

MUC Housing Department Expands Reach

Our Housing & Community Development Department is excited to announce being awarded the 2020 Community Partnership Initiative through Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency. This year will mark over 20 years that we have been serving the East Side of Buffalo with home repair assistance and other programming through this contract, and is an exciting time with the expansion of our service area to include many additional East Side neighborhoods. We look forward to continuing our partnership with BURA. For more information call 716-893-7222 x213.

To find out if the Matt Urban Center is the community based organization that serves your neighborhood, click here and submit your property address.

 

First Round of Renovations at 104 Lewis Street is Complete!

Phase one of construction on tenant units at our T.J. Wojnar Parkview Apartments is complete! Our first round of tenants are excited to be living in their newly renovated apartments.
COVID-19 has impacted everyone in many ways, and in this case it meant several delays in a major rehabilitation project for the building, with teams on every end working reduced hours, shipping and inventory delays, and smaller crews. Savarino Companies has kept to the task and ensured a smooth process along the way, coordinating with our Property Manager, Debbie Skulski-Wakelam, and Lincoln Moving and Storage of Buffalo to move residents into their new homes. Thank you to all of our partners on this project, including New York State Homes & Community Renewal and LISC WNY.
Construction completion is still on track for summer 2021 and additional units may be available at that time. For additional information on this 32-unit apartment building or to apply to our waitlist, visit our website or call 716-893-7222 x222.

A Home for the Holidays at Hope House

In a year where the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to stay close to home, we may have taken for granted what a luxury it is to have a safe home to retreat to.

Our Matt Urban Center housing team recently handed the keys to our very first tenants at Hope House, our newly renovated apartment complex located in the former P.S. 57 building on Sears Street. Our partners at Best Self Behavioral Health helped us in securing a safe, warm, affordable home for Christina and her 10 year-old daughter, Na’zia.

Christina had been patiently waiting for those keys for a long time. The past two years have been a rough road for her as she worked to overcome substance abuse and the hardships it brought to her and Na’zia’s lives.

“I’ve always been a drinker, but then I started indulging in cocaine,” she said. “I did that for about a year and a half, and I lost everything – my job, my car, and my home.”

Christina got into a 28-day rehab program at the Stutzman Addiction Treatment Center, but when the program concluded, she knew she wasn’t ready to step out on her own yet. She made her way to Best Self’s Lighthouse Women’s Residence to continue her recovery. Upon hearing from her counselor that she was a candidate for tenancy at Hope House, she requested to extend her stay at Lighthouse while waiting for renovations to be completed. She knew there were so few options for affordable housing where she and her daughter could go and truly feel safe.

“They asked if I wanted to leave and wait, but I didn’t want to jeopardize my recovery being somewhere else, and there’s a lack of places for women to go safely with their children,” Christina said. “It was a journey being optimistic, but I believe in God and he kept telling me if you just wait, it will be so worth it. I would do it all over again. I would wait another 6 months if I had to.”

Now Christina has a bright, modernly furnished apartment with large windows and on-site laundry facilities. She’s close to the Broadway Market, the post office, and other businesses where she can run her errands. More importantly, she has access to support from the Best Self Behavioral Health staff who work in the building when she needs it. And for the first time in two years – since they lost their home – Na’zia finally has her own room and privacy again.

“I’m so grateful for this place,” Christina said. “To be able to come somewhere secure, safe, affordable, and nice on top of everything else. I was expecting the bare minimum, but it’s so beautiful and modern and innovative with the high ceilings and the light fixtures. This is my sanctuary.”

Christina and Na’zia are looking forward to decorating their new home for the holidays with Christina’s mother, and continuing to work on their DIY projects together. The enjoy spending time together making jewelry and finding new ideas from online tutorials. Christina’s also looking forward to having a quiet space to write her poetry.

“I’m really into my NA book now, I do a lot of meetings,” she said. “I like to help other women who have been through the same things that I have. I’m just looking forward to working with my peers here to sustain my sobriety and just do my part, being responsible and living life on life’s terms. I want to be able to sit with my emotions, deal with my problems as they occur, keep my daughter happy. I really just want to do my part and evolve.”

Below is a poem Christina wrote, inspired by her new home at Hope House:

Hope is home after a long day of confusion

Where your reality is yours without any illusion

Your family is safe and call this place home

Where you’ll be content even when you are alone

This place is comfortable and affordable too

Within the decisions you make, you’ll find the hidden truth

That this is the place that you can be you

Where tenants are happy and have found hope here, too!

For those who need housing assistance and want to learn more about applying for an apartment at Hope House, contact Best Self Behavioral Health at 716-449-3372.

Keep an eye on our website and Matt Urban Center social media for more stories and updates from Hope House!

Welcoming our New Chief Community Development Officer

We’re excited to welcome Ryan Undercoffer to the role of Chief Community Development Officer at the Matt Urban Center!
Ryan joins the Matt Urban Center from M&T Bank, where he served as a Project Manager on a number of large-scale, enterprise-wide projects. Prior to his role at M&T, Ryan served as Finance Manager for the Niagara Falls Department of Community Development, where he worked for several years helping to manage a multi-million dollar grant portfolio made up of federal, state, local, and private funding sources. Ryan also spent several years working on legislative staffs, serving the Niagara Falls City Council and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ryan currently serves on the boards of Pinnacle Community Services and the Niagara Area Habitat for Humanity. He and his wife, Lauren, have two children, Joanna (3) and Evan (1). They live in Niagara Falls, NY and enjoy hiking the Niagara Gorge on the weekends. Ryan is also a long-time Brazilian Jiu Jitsu player and enjoys competing and helping others to learn the sport.

Updated COVID-19 Procedures

As our region continues its broader re-opening process, several of our sites and programs have updated their procedures for building entry, client appointments, and general inquiries. Please see below for detailed information by program, to ensure you are following our current safety guidelines and know what to expect when visiting or submitting inquiries to our sites.

Main Headquarters:  1081 Broadway

Our main headquarters has revised COVID-19 procedures that can be viewed HERE. Please reference this document before entering our facility. See below for more specifics regarding individual program updates:

Housing & Community Development – Our housing department continues to serve residents with all programs, however, all walk-in clients and in-person appointments are on hold until further notice. Residents applying for home repair can continue through the application process via phone, email and mail. We also continue to accept wait list applications for our apartment buildings and serve receivership tenants via phone and email. Tenants may still drop off rent payments at the dropbox in the lobby at 1081 Broadway the Main Headquarter procedures referenced above.  Please call x214 for more information.

Senior Services – Our Senior Services staff continue to provide case management via phone. We will begin seeing clients for in-person service at 1081 Broadway by appointment only. Please call our senior services department at x207 for more information.

Weatherization – Our Weatherization staff are returning to work at properties in the community under safe procedures. New and existing clients seeking information or completing an application can do so via phone with our program director by calling x218.

Hope House Shelter: 586 Genesee Street
Our Hope House shelter is still accepting referrals, but our capacity is currently at 50% to maintain a safe distance between residents. We will accept referrals as families depart through the Department of Social Services and 2-1-1. All questions regarding the shelter can be directed to our Hope Services director at (917) 717-1400.

Matt Urban Hope Center: 385 Paderewski Drive
Our Hope Center is still closed to the public at this time. Our Hope Center staff anticipate a partial re-opening for food pantry and personal essentials pantry with a tentative start date of July 21. Please continue checking our website and social media for updates on the Hope Center’s re-opening status and procedures. Please call x310 with questions.

Hope Services 2 – Permanent Supportive Housing: Housing First, Hope Gardens – 58 Oberlin Avenue, HELP Buffalo – I 368 Broadway & II 384 Broadway

Upon entry at Hope Gardens and HELP Buffalo I&II, all staff, service providers and any and all visitors are required to wear a mask, thoroughly sanitize their hands, and have their temperature taken and recorded in a daily log. At this time, both locations are not allowing unauthorized visitors. We have designated areas for deliveries.

The staff at HELP Buffalo I&II and Hope Gardens are currently providing case management with face-to-face visits in our larger open spaces, like conference rooms, where they can ensure 6 ft. distance from one another. Clients and staff are required to wear masks and carefully disinfect the entire area between these visits. Additionally, for Hope Gardens, all common areas remain closed until further notice and our door-to-door, take out style breakfast and dinner service will continue.

Our Housing First Program (scattered site) Case Managers are conducting socially distanced outdoor visits for clients with desperate needs, emergency situations, health concerns, landlord issues, and overall amplified behavioral difficulties.

Lastly, all of the Permanent Supportive Housing Programs are prepared and are hoping to accept new referrals in the fall. Please call (716)893-7222 x530 or x536 for further information on Permanent Supportive Housing programs.

Youth & Community Services: 129 Lewis Street & 385 Paderewski Drive
These locations are not open to the public at this time. Our Youth Summer Camp program will be opening for registered participants on July 6 under safe procedures. Please click HERE for more information about summer camp hours and registration.

Our youth locations will be participating in the BPS Summer Lunch program as pick-up sites. Lunches will be available for pick-up from 12pm- 1pm Monday- Friday, for children ages 18 and under. Lunch cannot be eaten on site – it must be taken home. One lunch per child will be given and children must be present in order to receive the lunch.

Our food pantry at the T.J. Dulski Center (129 Lewis St.) will continue to serve clients outside in the rear of the building. The food pantry is open Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Please keep an eye on our website for any updates to our procedures.

Employment Opportunity: Chief Community Development Officer

Now Hiring: Chief Community Development Officer

Job Description: The Chief Community Development Officer (CCDO) will serve as a critical member of the senior leadership management team of the Matt Urban Center. The CCDO is responsible for the management of the properties and housing development projects that are owned and/or managed by the agency. The CCDO ensures compliance with program delivery requirements, including owner-occupied housing rehab, homebuyer activities, weatherization, rental housing rehab and development, asset management and affordable housing finance.

Click the link above for full listing. Please submit cover letter and resume to our Chief Operations Officer, Karen Baer, at kbaer@urbanctr.org.

Employment Opportunity: Housing Specialist

Now Hiring: Housing Specialist

Job Description: The Housing Specialist’s primary responsibilities will include working with area residents to apply for grants and assist with housing department projects to further our mission of maintaining safe and affordable housing.

Click the link above for full listing. Please submit cover letter and resume to our Director of Housing & Community Development, Maya Shermer, at mshermer@urbanctr.org.

COVID-19 PROGRAM UPDATES

As a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, our agency has had to make some temporary changes to our programs and procedures. Please see below for updates from each of our sites and programs on how they will be functioning in the interim. We will continue to send updates as things change.

MUC Headquarters, 1081 Broadway
Our main headquarters is open, but we are not accepting any walk-in clients. The building is open to staff and deliveries only. Tenants may drop off rent payments at the dropbox in the lobby at 1081 Broadway if they are unable to mail them. All inquiries should be made via phone at (716) 893-7222.

ESL/GED Program
Our ESL and GED classes are suspended until April 20, per the Buffalo Public Schools mandate. Please keep an eye on our website for updates on this timeline.

SNAP Program
Our SNAP workforce development program is suspended until further notice.

Senior Services Program
Our senior services staff are no longer doing home visits at this time. Our senior services program is still working with clients via phone and can be reached at (716) 893-7222 x207 Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Housing & Community Development Programs
All City of Buffalo housing assistance program inquiries – including the Emergency Repair program, HomeGrown program, and Down Payment & Closing Cost Assistance program – are being referred to call the Old First Ward Community Association at 716-856-8613 x103.

Housing staff are still supporting our receivership tenants over the phone at (716) 893-7222 x214. All tenants should be paying rent via mail to the Matt Urban Center, 1081 Broadway, Buffalo NY 14212 if possible, or at the dropbox in the lobby at 1081 Broadway if they are unable to mail them. Tenants at our apartment buildings can continue to pay rent via the dropbox at their respective buildings.

Weatherization Program
Our weatherization staff are still working Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We ask that all new applicants request information by phone at (716) 893-7222 x218 or via email at jparylo@urbanctr.org or by mail to the Matt Urban Center, 1081 Broadway, Buffalo NY 14212.

Matt Urban Hope Center, 385 Paderewski Drive
The Matt Urban Hope Center is currently closed and all services are suspended until further notice.

Hope House Shelter, 586 Genesee Street

Our Hope House shelter is still accepting referrals, but our capacity is currently at 50% to maintain a safe distance between residents. We are only accepting 25 women and children at this time. We will accept referrals as families depart through the Department of Social Services and 2-1-1. All questions regarding the shelter can be directed to our Hope Services director at (917) 717-1400.

T.J. Dulski Community Center, 129 Lewis Street

The T.J. Dulski Center is currently closed to the public. I n light of the local school closures, all youth program operations have ceased until further notice.

Our food pantry at T.J. Dulski will be open every other week on Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The next date the pantry will be open is Wednesday, April 1.

Permanent Supportive Housing Programs

Our permanent supportive housing programs are suspending all home visits and will continue to support our clients over the phone. Our staff can be reached at (716) 893-7222, x530.

HELP Buffalo I & II, 368 & 384 Broadway
No visitors are permitted at our HELP Buffalo apartments at this time. Tenants can continue to work with their case managers via phone.

Hope Gardens, 58 Oberlin Avenue
No visitors are permitted at our Hope Gardens apartments at this time. All group activities and congregate dining have been suspended. Food will be delivered to tenants’ apartments. Tenants can continue to work with their case managers on site and via phone.

Questions? Reach out to us at (716) 893-7222 or via email at info@urbanctr.org.

We hope all of our clients, partners, supporters and community members stay safe and healthy during this time!