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Congressman Brian Higgins addresses the media. (Submitted photo)
Congressman Brian Higgins addresses the media. (Submitted photo)

Higgins, Poloncarz announce nearly $13.75 million in federal grants to fight homelessness in WNY


Wed, Mar 20th 2019 04:05 pm

Congressman Brian Higgins announced the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care (CoC) program has awarded almost $13.75 million in federal funding to Western New York organizations to assist in the mission to end homelessness in the region.

Higgins said, “These federal grants that our local agencies have won through the Department of Housing and Urban Development will be instrumental in expanding critical services and continuing to fight homelessness in Western New York. We are fortunate to have, in the Homeless Alliance of WNY, a coordinated effort led by able local agencies and government partners committed to not only home placement, but a real focus on addressing the challenges that leave people without a home.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz added, “Continuum of Care grant funding provides a lifeline to individuals struggling with homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse by helping these people get the supports they need to reconnect to the community, get rehoused and work towards overcoming the obstacles in their lives. The Erie County Department of Mental Health has applied for and received this funding each year for over 20 years, and with partner agencies continues to address the issue with compassion and commitment. I thank Commissioner Ranney and his team, along with Congressman Higgins, for working to better the lives of our residents.”

Created in 1992 as the Erie County Commission on Homelessness, the Homeless Alliance of WNY manages grant programs for many Western New York organizations that provide homelessness assistance. HAWNY separated from the government and adopted its current name in 2005. It’s since merged with other nearby CoC programs and is presently the CoC lead for Buffalo and Niagara Falls, as well as Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties. This year’s funding exceeds the fiscal year 2018 CoC program funding for those counties by more than $80,000.

Executive Director of HAWNY Dale Zuchlewski said, “I would like to thank Congressman Brian Higgins for his continued commitment to helping provide the $12.2 million of HUD CoC funds for Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. These funds are the single largest funding source for the provision of homeless services in our area. I would also like to thank County Executive Mark Poloncarz for the county’s continued commitment in providing frontline services to those experiencing homelessness. The Erie County Department of Mental Health receives almost half of these funds to assist those with the most severe needs. Additionally, the Department of Social Services is a key partner and, often times, first stop for those without a home.”

ECDMH Commissioner Michael Ranney said, “Erie County Department of Mental Health is honored to accept this award of $5.4 million. Through the good work of the county, we have consistently been awarded these HUD dollars for several years. We continue to work diligently with our community partners to reduce chronic homelessness for individuals in our community with disabling conditions.”

In addition to the CoC grant funding awarded by HUD, the department has also made several Emergency Solutions Grants Program awards to WNY municipalities. ESG program funds go to providing emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families, the operation of those shelters, as well as essential services for shelter residents and homelessness prevention programs.

More than a dozen different local organizations and municipalities will receive funding:

Many of these awards will provide for the renewal of existing successful programs. Portions of the funding will support a new projects, including a combined transitional and rapid rehousing program through Compass House for youth ages 18-24; additional permanent supportive housing beds through the Erie County Department of Mental Health for those facing substance abuse issues or those with mental or physical disabilities; as well as additional funding for rapid rehousing program assistance to those in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

The Homeless Alliance of WNY report “Point in Time” stated 957 people in the five Western New York counties faced homelessness in 2018. HUD’s 2018 Homeless Assessment Report to Congress found an estimated 553,000 people in the U.S. – including 164,023 individuals in families with children and 36,361 unaccompanied youth – experienced homelessness on any given night in America.

The president’s 2020 budget proposes cutting the McKinney Vento homeless programs, which includes Continuum of Care and Emergency Solutions Grants, from $2.636 billion (FY19) to $2.598 billion. Higgins is among a bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives pushing for $3 billion for the Homeless Assistance Grant Program in 2020.

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