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Poverty and Homelessness in Niagara Falls: "Homeless for a Night"

Courtesy of www.LeadershipNiagara.com

Leadership Niagara is hosting an overnight event in Niagara Falls tonight with the idea of engaging conversation about the area's growing problem with poverty and homelessness. 

Homeless for a Night is aimed at encouraging awareness and action about issues such as poverty and homelessness in Niagara Falls. The event features speakers such as Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, Niagara University President Rev. James J. Maher and others from the Niagara Falls community.

Community Missions operates a soup kitchen, food pantry, homeless shelter and several other programs in the Falls.  Spokesman Christian Hoffman says Niagara Falls population declined by 2% between the years 2000 and 2010, but the poverty rose 9% during that same time, and the numbers just keep growing.

"We're seeing more kids here in the homeless shelter.  Obviously those are coming through families and larger families that we deal with on occasion. 42-percent more kids have stayed the night at Community Missions than they did even a year ago," according to Hoffman.

Hoffman adds transportation is a key issue, noting "It's so difficult for people to get to job training, to get that job, be able to lift themselves out of poverty. Niagara Falls in particular is difficult.  There aren't as many bus routes up here as there might be in Buffalo." 

Tonight's event at the Park Place Market is open to the public from 6pm-10pm and features speakers, a light dinner and a non-perishable food and clothing drive. Current and former members of Leadership Niagara will be spending the night outside in cardboard boxes.  They'll also be assembling hygiene bags to donate to Community Missions.