Share this article

print logo

HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY STRUGGLING TO MAKE ENDS MEET

Tremendous attention has been given to the fiscal crisis facing the City of Buffalo and Erie County. There are plenty of innocent individuals who have become victims of this ongoing saga.

For the past four years, I have been the executive director of the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY, located at 1081 Broadway. This has been the toughest year both for our clients and for our employees.

Not-for-profits continuously struggle to secure funding; this year is especially difficult with the drastic cuts in funding from all levels of government. As governmental support dwindles, competition for foundation and corporate support becomes tougher. Our net loss this year will be between $200,000 and $250,000. This is a considerable amount, since our total operating budget is about $1.5 million.

We provide services to over 5,000 clients annually, and 3,000 clients indirectly, totaling 8,000. Services include senior citizen case management, youth educational/recreational programming, a food pantry, kids cafe program, housing for low-income seniors, refugees and individuals in need of a supportive living environment. Besides the Broadway-Fillmore area, our senior services program also serves a large portion of Cheektowaga.

Due to the loss of funding, we made some tough decisions regarding cutbacks and curtailing services. We eliminated our senior citizen crime prevention program and our youth and family case management services. We reduced services provided by our housing and youth departments, and cut operational hours, displacing groups that have used our facilities for years.

Presently, we do not know the impact of these decisions. I suspect we are curtailing services to 1,500 to 2,000 clients. All our clients will be impacted, and unfortunately, we are the last resort for many. I have many sleepless nights worrying about their quality of life and wondering when all this madness will end.

Broadway-Fillmore's unemployment rate is 18.8 percent -- more than three times higher than the statewide average of 5.5 percent. Unfortunately, we have added to that number by laying off many dedicated employees, who live within our service area, and because of their income levels, qualify for the services that they provide to clients.

With all this bad news, it is hard to see the positive side of our situation. But we are fighters and will not give up. We have always been administratively lean; for every dollar received, over 94 cents goes to providing direct services. We are aggressively pursuing every available resource, and have four fund-raisers planned.

On April 29 we are hosting a pizza and beer party in our third floor hall at 1081 Broadway. We are conducting a raffle. On May 14 we are hosting a rummage sale in the parking lot of Polonia Hall, located at 385 Paderewski Drive. Later this year, we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Dom Polski Building.

We welcome the community's support for our efforts; if interested, please call 893-7222, ext. 202.

Marlies Wesolowski is executive director of the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY.