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New East Side residence caters to homeless women

Homeless Alliance of Western New York

A new facility for homeless women aims to make a dent in the homeless population in Buffalo.

The Lieutenant Colonel Matt Urban Human Services Center opened the doors to its newest living facility, Hope Gardens Apartments, on Monday. The Oberlin Avenue facility will house 20 women who are now living on the streets.

The complex is based on the Housing First model, which provides women with a stable home before tackling the issues that led to their situation. The center features activities including gardening, art, music and yoga, along with providing counseling.

Executive Director Marlies Wesolowski says one of the women is dying of cancer and has been mixing homeless life and chemotherapy. She says there are a lot more homeless women out there and nowhere near enough housing for them.
"As we were building the project," Wesolowski notes, "We actually lost three or four women who froze to death on the streets because they didn't have a warm place to come in from out of the cold... We're very glad that it's finally open and we can, at least, offer safe haven for twenty."

Wesolowski says the $5.6 million project will offer a therapeutic atmosphere to women who are often traumatized by the events which put them on the street and by what they go through on the streets.

The Matt Urban Center also has a 50-bed shelter for homeless families, with many kids in city schools.

Hope Gardens was paid for using federal and state funding.  

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.