Poloncarz, Cannon join Social Services personnel, clients to cut ribbon on new space; move from 478 Main to 460 Main adds space, improves client experience
The Erie County Department of Social Services is celebrating the move of HEAP and Emergency Services Offices to 460 Main St., Buffalo, after years of overcrowding and other building issues at the old HEAP Office, located at 478 Main St. More than 90,000 Erie County households seek help annually with heating their homes and with other emergency needs such as shelter and utility arrears, evictions, security agreements, moving and storage assistance, all of which will now be coordinated through the offices at 460 Main.
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Commissioner of Social Services Marie Cannon joined departmental staff and clients to cut the ribbon and officially open the new space today.
Poloncarz said, "These new offices will provide better service experiences for both clients and staff and will remove a lot of the environment-related stress from the benefits application process. Prior to this move, applicants were jammed into a much-smaller, less-efficient space with a lack of personal space to communicate with social services personnel after requiring applicants to stand outside while waiting in line. This new space at 460 Main is larger, easier to navigate and can accommodate larger groups. It is a win-win for everyone involved."
"At the new location you will see a modern integrated approach to service delivery for energy assistance programs, with a client reception area space that is three times the size of our prior location," Cannon said. "This move has created a professional office space for our clients and staff including conference space for meetings and training, a lactation room for nursing mothers, and cubicles that lend to privacy and productivity."
The Department of Social Services officially moved into the new office space on the second floor of 460 Main on Oct. 15. The newly remodeled space is now home to the Temporary Assistance Emergency Services Program, Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) and Department of Social Services utilities teams. Clients can now report to this new site through the building's Main Street entrance. The phone number for the HEAP Hotline (716-858-7644) and the HEAP application line (716-858-1969) have remained the same.
"The waiting room at 478 Main St., was only equipped to hold 49 individuals, and overcrowding often led to tense situations with clients wrapped around the building outside waiting in inclement weather to apply for benefits. As an administration, we recognized these challenges and took steps to remedy the situation and improve the client experience," said Karen Rybicki, first deputy commissioner for the DSS. "Improving the physical space of all our facilities is something the Department of Social Services is committed to and has outlined as a main theme in our strategic plan for the future."
In December 2017, the DSS unveiled a newly remodeled Erie County Works Center on the first floor of the Rath building, a $1.4 million renovation project that completely remodeled the department's first-floor space at the public's main portal for accessing public benefits. Approximately 11,500 square feet of space were renovated, modernized and reconfigured to provide better services in a more secure, respectful and welcoming environment along with improved work spaces for departmental employees. Currently, a renovation of the Rath building's seventh floor to serve as the department's legal office space is underway.