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BLOCK CLUBS TARGET EARLY-RELEASE PROGRAM LINWOOD-ALLENTOWN LEADERS SAY AREA ALREADY HAS TOO MANY SOCIAL AGENCIES

Four block clubs Monday attempted to stop the 64th social program for at-risk people from expanding in the Linwood-Allentown area.

Block club leaders, meeting with county officials, said the grounds and empty building at the Erie County Medical Center are better suited to accommodating the people released early from prison than the already-saturated area west of Main Street.

Deputy County Executive James Keane said saturated is an under-statement.

"It's over-saturated," said Keane. "It's dripping with health and human service agencies."

Both the quality of life and the property values of resident taxpayers are hurt by too many agencies, Keane said.

The clubs produced a list for the area that includes 64 programs at 60 different addresses, 12 homes or programs for the addicted, 12 residential shelters, 12 soup kitchens or food pantries, plus centers for released prisoners or troubled teens and sites serving the mentally ill or mentally disabled.

Keane said that the agencies attract many clients who live outside the area and must be held more accountable. He said no new agencies should locate there and those already present should not at this time expand.

Block club leaders urged the county, which gives money to many agencies and operates programs, to take three steps:

Move some medically- or addiction-oriented programs to vacant land or empty buildings at the Erie County Medical Center

Consolidate programs to cut the tax money going to agency administrators and increase actual work with the addicted, mentally ill and others.

Move at least 45 agencies to other parts of the city and county where there are people to be served.

Legislator George Holt, D-Buffalo, said the east side of Main Street actually needs agencies for its residents.

"Look at how you can move from the West Side into the East Side so people can take care of their own," he said.

Ellen Burns of the North Pearl Block Club said county workers reportedly do not want to work on the East Side.

The focus of Monday's protest was 1280 Main St., where the medical center treats addicts and the county is starting to treat early releases from the crowded jail and penitentiary. The club leaders said the street is crowded with men who sometimes accost people, that crime has jumped, and that the sidewalks are often jammed with cars belonging to people inside.

Margaret O'Donnell, deputy probation commissioner, said released people are required to attend five hours of treatment six times a week and would end up at 1280 Main any way.

"The ECMC program is at an inappropriate site," said Ms. Burns, who noted that there are already six programs for alcohol or drug treatment at different buildings within walking distance of 1280 Main. "It's inappropriate for any of these organizations to put additional services in our area."

Richard Washousky of the medical center's development department said 30 to 40 percent of the people at 1280 Main had difficulties with the law. In addition, he said, the medical center has opened the location to programs serving 700 to 800 recovering alcoholics and others who are not under treatment by the county hospital.

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