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As 2017 winds to a close, Buffalo City Mission issues call for help

Buffalo City Mission

The Buffalo City Mission says the demand for its help is continuing to rise, but its current fund drive is running very behind.

The story of the City Mission's situation is told in numbers: 100 percent occupancy, 9 percent rise in the homeless population this year, more expected in 2018, a $210,000 shortfall in donations. Associate Executive Director Aubrey Calhoun says the mission's annual fall campaign is critical to the mission's work because the $2.3 million goal is nearly a third of its annual operating budget.

As the drive finishes at midnight Sunday, Calhoun is reaching out to the community for help.

"The meals are such a big deal and the mission already has provided over 170,000 meals this past year," Calhoun says, "and the increase in homelessness has increased from last year by 9 percent. The need is great. It's not decreasing and homelessness is with us 365 days of the year. We're hoping this community can come shoulder to shoulder with us and rally with us."

Calhoun says there used to be a predictable seasonal flow in demand for its services. However, when the economy changed a decade ago, City Mission filled - and has stayed full.

Credit Buffalo City Mission

"Since 2008, when the economy really changed, we used to see a change in our audience and then like around January, we used to start wrapping up," he says. "Since 2008, we are at 100 percent capacity full, 24/7, 365 days of the year."

That reflects 6,100 people living on the streets, with 79 percent of them in their first year without a home.

"What that means is that an event has occurred in their life where they had a job, they had income, they had their own place of residency, but because of loss of income, loss of job, transportation, they have been stepping out into homelessness for the first time," he said.

To date in 2017, the mission provided 73,000 nights of shelter to the homeless.

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.
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