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Helping the homeless achieve stability

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Project Homeless Connect Buffalo held an annual event Tuesday that matched up homeless individuals with resources to help them find stability.

More than 600 people received free food, counseling, health screenings, and personal care items at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. It's the seventh year the event has helped link the homeless with the resources they need for a more stable life, said Kathleen Heim, the group’s co-founder.

“We offer extensive counseling, whether it’s credit counseling, mental health services, legal counsel, really anything and everything you can imagine. A lot of things that we take for granted, that we would set up an appointment with a doctor or a dentist, or attorneys, we have that free of charge today,” Heim told WBFO.

Community leaders and activists also used the event as an opportunity to call on Governor Cuomo to fund 35,000 supportive housing units, or affordable housing with on-site services for those who need them.

Stephen Piasecki is the upstate coordinator of Supportive Housing Network of New York. He says the units will provide relief to the homeless while saving the state money over time.

“People who are homeless often times will cost state and local government much more in terms of emergency hospitalization, psychiatric hospitalization, just any of the health problems that come from being homeless for a long period of time,” said Piasecki. “Studies have shown now for about 30 years that giving people a permanent place to live, providing them with just enough support to make it work for them, is actually a cost-effective way of addressing homelessness.”

Heim also advocated for supportive housing units, saying that they would provide needed relief for Buffalo’s homeless population.

“Homelessness is always a pressing issue, but it’s particularly pressing in our region," said Heim. "On any given night, we have 2,000 individuals in the city of Buffalo that identify as being homeless. We desperately need these resources brought to our community as quickly as possible, so we’re going to do everything we can to advocate for those services.”

Assembly members Sean Ryan and Mickey Kearns and State Senator Tim Kennedy also attended the event. They added their voices to the campaign to create more supportive housing units for the homeless population.