BURA Launches “STAND UP Buffalo” Initiative

Mayor Byron W. Brown recently announced the launch of the Small Business, Tenants, And Neighborhood Development Underwriting Program or “STAND UP Buffalo” Initiative. The initiative is comprised of a series of direct assistance grants and programs that will allow residents and business owners to respond to the unique challenges the global Coronavirus Pandemic has caused in Buffalo and cities across the nation.

The Matt Urban Center is proud to be one of the community agencies that are partnering with the City to deliver critical services to City residents and small businesses. Other collaborating agencies include:

2-1-1 WNY
Restoration Society
Belmont Housing Resources
Center for Elder Law and Justice
Catholic Charities
Buffalo Urban League
Old First Ward Community Association
Heart of the City Neighborhoods
University District Community Development Association
Housing Opportunities Made Equal
Neighborhood Legal Services
Westminster Economic Development Initiative

“The Matt Urban Center provides a wide range of services to the East Side of Buffalo including, home repairs and weatherization, affordable housing development, multiple programs aimed at addressing homelessness as well as robust programs for youth and seniors,” said Ben Hilligas, Executive Director. Our mission is to provide programs that revitalize neighborhoods, serve families, and change lives. When I hear ‘STAND UP Buffalo’ I immediately think of the strength and resilience of our community and the solidarity we demonstrate and represent as citizens of the City of Buffalo. We thank the Mayor for his commitment to fair and equal housing in the City of Buffalo.”

Read the full press release with more information about the STAND UP Buffalo Initiative by clicking here.

Afterschool Programming Returns to Polonia Hall

We’re excited that in-person afterschool programming will return to our Polonia Hall site at 385 Paderewski Drive, beginning March 1, 2021. We will be following COVID-19 guidelines and limiting the number of participants in the program for safety reasons.

To fill out an application to participate in the afterschool program, click here.

Please contact Justin Larke at jlarke@urbanctr.org or at (716) 893-7222 x311 for more information.

MUC Seeking Bids for Pest Control Services

The Matt Urban Center is currently seeking the services of a qualified contractor to assist in pest control services at our administrative and rental properties.

The full Request for Proposals can be viewed here: RFP Pest Control – All MUC Properties – Feb 2021

The deadline for submitting a proposal is Friday, February 19 at 3:30 p.m. All bids must be submitted via U.S. Mail or delivery to:

Andrew Linneman, Purchasing Agent
Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY
1081 Broadway
Buffalo, NY 14212

Questions on this request for qualifications may be directed to purchasing@urbanctr.org or (716) 893 – 7222 ext: 227.

Donor Spotlight: The Sengupta Family

This month we’re highlighting The Sengupta Family – Sourav, Elizabeth, and their two daughters. After touring our Hope Center facility and learning about what we do last year, the family made a very generous personal donation to our Homeless Outreach team, including monies that their daughters had saved up in their piggy bank. Coupled with their donation from last year, the Sengupta Family has provided over $24,500 to support our efforts to meet our homeless clients where they’re at and provide support and resources to keep them safe.
Our Homeless Outreach team is excited to be able to purchase some specialized supplies that they don’t have consistent access to, such as larger sizes of clothing for clients, boots and shoes, storage for donations, and transportation passes.
A tremendous thank you to the Sengupta Family for their generosity and compassion for the clients we serve!

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.

Letter from the Executive Director

Greetings, friends of the Matt Urban Center.
It is with great humility that I address you all as the new Executive Director of this historic human services organization. I officially assumed this role on Monday, January 4, 2021 and as I write this, I am mid-way through my fourth week.
First, I must thank the former Acting Executive Director and current Chief Program Officer, Alissa Venturini, for her leadership during a challenging and uncertain time for the agency. I feel incredibly fortunate to have her and the rest of the leadership team by my side as we begin to chart the new course for the continued success of the Matt Urban Center.
Over the course of this month, a few things have become exceedingly clear to me: the services we provide are critical to both individuals and the community at large; the employees who deliver these services are talented and invested in the success of their clients; and that there are tremendous additional needs that are currently unmet. In saying that, I would also like to make clear that despite the high level of need, there are other intangible resources that are in large supply. The strength, resolve, resourcefulness and ingenuity, as well as the deep level of care, commitment and consideration exhibited by members of our community and team on a daily basis are, in my opinion, the true measure of our collective worth and impact.
As I begin my tenure, my immediate goals are to bring stability to the organization in the near term; to learn as much as possible about our diverse array of program offerings – from afterschool to emergency home repairs; and to connect with our partners, funders and stakeholder groups, including community organizations and individual community members. While the pandemic will impact my ability to make those connections in the way I would prefer, I will make every effort to be as visible and accessible as possible as we continue to safely navigate COVID-19. However, when the weather begins to turn and our ability to interact in person increases, you can count on seeing me around the building and neighborhood, talking and listening to what our friends and neighbors have to say.
Lastly, I just can’t emphasize enough how humbled and excited I am to have the opportunity to lead this organization and have a positive impact on our neighborhood, the East Side, City of Buffalo, Erie County and WNY as a whole. I look forward to meeting and working with you all. Stay safe and healthy.

Thank You to the Buffalo Bills!

We wanted to congratulate our beloved Buffalo Bills on an amazing season! This team has given hope to so many this year, including the Matt Urban Center and the clients we serve. We also want to give a special shout-out to the following Bills players for their acts of generosity during the holiday season:
Matt Barkley and his family made a $10,000 donation to our Hope House women and children’s shelter to make Christmas brighter for our residents (their second donation in 2020!) Matt also teamed up with local apparel company Buf on Weck to sell Buffalo Renegade shirts and hoodies, with part of the proceeds benefitting our organization.
Josh Norman and his Starz 24 Foundation donated blankets, socks, hats, gloves, hand sanitizer and hand warmers to our Homeless Outreach team to help take care of their clients during the cold winter months.
Micah Hyde’s IMagINe For Youth Foundation’s Kicks for Kids initiative donated 25 backpacks filled with Nike Sneakers, Nike Shorts, candy and Buffalo Bills gear to the children in our youth after-school program and those staying at our Hope House shelter.
The Bills’ Women’s Association also provided funds for a beautiful catered holiday meal for our Hope House residents and staff to enjoy together to celebrate the season.
We’re so grateful to have a hometown team that not only plays with tremendous heart, but also keeps our community close to its heart. We’re always rooting for them. GO BILLS!

Volunteer At Home Opportunity

Looking to give back during the holidays? Assembling personal essentials kits for our Hope Center is a COVID-safe way to volunteer on your own time!
We’ve partnered with the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County’s Family Volunteer Season program to get more folks involved in volunteering while staying safe amidst the pandemic. Any number of kits donated is greatly appreciated and will go to good use in our Hope Center’s personal essentials pantry.
Visit uwbec.org/family-volunteer-day for instructions on how to assemble the kits and info on how to get them to us.
Questions? Email our Development Director, Sarah Maurer, at smaurer@urbanctr.org.

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!

Hope Center Presents Holiday Meal To-Go!

Mark your calendars for December 23! Chef Chris is whipping up another delicious, free holiday meal for the community from the Matt Urban Hope Center’s Urban Diner. All meals are grab-and-go and can be picked up at our 385 Paderewski Drive. Masks are required at pick-up.