(Buffalo, N.Y.) – Buffalo has seen a dramatic decrease in chronic homelessness over the past few years. For example, four years ago there were more than 400 people who were chronically homeless, but as of 2015 there were only 25.
However, roughly 5,500 people experienced homelessness in the Buffalo Niagara region in 2015, but those numbers continue to decline, according to Christine Slocum, a research analyst at the Homeless Alliance of Western New York in Buffalo. Slocum appeared on the Buffalo Review (3/21) to discuss the causes of homelessness and resources in the area that help combat the problem.
“Chronic homelessness is when someone experiences homelessness for one year or more or four episodes (of homelessness) over three years that total a year and they have a disability. This is the least common type of homelessness experienced,” said Slocum. “The most common (type of homelessness) is a single episode, under a month, then never again.”
Despite Buffalo carrying the label as one of the poorest cities in America, Slocum said the city is “doing much better than other cities” when it comes to helping the homeless.
“One reason is we have an atmosphere of collaborators, not every place has that. Some places have turf issues. We don’t have the high rent that some cities do,” she said.
Last month, 15 local organizations received a $7.75 million grant from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development to help find housing and provide other resources for the homeless.
Slocum said high rent in certain regions is one of the key contributing factors to homelessness.
“When you look at a city, the rates of homelessness are usually determined by the rate of rent vs. what people are earning,” she said. “While there is a perception that mental health and drug use can contribute to homelessness, most people with mental illnesses are housed and most people with drug problems are also housed.
“When you look at the rates of drug use and mental illness among the homeless population, it’s not dramatically different than those who are poor. So we would argue that homelessness isn’t caused by mental illness, that can be a contributing factor, but really homelessness is just not having housing.”
Slocum said there are several resources those experiencing homelessness can use to seek help. For example, those in need of housing can seek assistance from the Department of Social Services, which can place a person in a shelter or hotel free of charge.