BUFFALO, NY - There is fear that three residential programs which have served women with alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness will be forced to close on April 1, 2014. Now the executive directors of Canaan House, Paradise House and New Life Residential Center say closing their facilities will leave many women homeless.
Margaret Hamilton runs New Life. She says the primary reason for the projected closings has to do with a reduction in the shelter rate for each client. Currently, the shelter rate is $667.00, it is being reduced to $169.00. "There's absolutely no way we these doors can remain open," said Hamilton.
The facilities provide more than a place of shelter, the women are involved in programs to help them deal with their issues. Pastor Darius Pridgen of True Bethel Baptist Church sees homelessness firsthand. "I don't think that there's a week that goes by that our church does not receive some type of request for assistance. Actually we're tapped out at times because we just don't have the funds as a church to do this and that's where you hope that government will step in and help those that need it most."
The need for assistance is also seen as a savings for taxpayers. "It's better to rehabilitate, help them get on their feet, get them into jobs which most of these programs do, so that we don't have to continue to take care of them on the tax rolls," said Rev. Pridgen.
Merle Showers of Canaan House is hoping county officials see the need not to decrease funding. " We've got to break the cycle so that they stop circling, as soon as they get out of any program that the county would put them in by itself, they're going to go right back to drugs."
2 On Your Side reached out to the Erie County Executive to see if any action will be taken to keep the facilities open. Peter Anderson, spokesman for the County Executive, told us in a statement the "Erie County Department of Social Services conducted a review of shelter rates provided to clients in transitional housing to more accurately match the rates being provided with the actual need for such services, a fully legal review to ascertain what rates were going to shelters and adjust those rates if necessary."
Anderson continued, "For a single client receiving cash assistance, the standard temporary assistance shelter allowance prescribed by NYS is $169, which is the rate that several local shelters have been returned to. These shelters had been receiving enhanced shelter rates, granted at a time when there was a higher demand to meet the needs of this population, a demand that has since dwindled with less need for these types of special shelters than there once was. The enhanced rates were set in place years ago when the safety net was 50%; now that it is at 71%, the need to look at these expenditures was evident. Affected shelters were informed in October 2013 and the rate change will go into effect on April 1, 2014. The Department of Social Services is always willing to work with our vital community partners to identify other potential funding opportunities to augment the new rates."