The operator of an East Side Buffalo shelter that caters to women who are in recovery from substance abuse on Monday called on Erie County to restore funding to the nonprofit facility.
The deep cuts in county funding pose a threat to the future of Paradise House, said Anne P. Paris, executive director of the facility, located at 144 Mills St. The county Department of Social Services two years ago cut funding for Paradise House from $620 a month per resident to $495 monthly per resident. Then, beginning April 1, the funding was slashed to only $169 per month for each resident housed at Paradise House.
For the nearly 20 years of its existence, Paradise House received a steady stream of revenue from the county for serving poor women seeking to transition from addiction and incarceration to law-abiding independence.
Its clients, who hail from all parts of the county, are housed in the 30-bed facility that formerly served as the rectory for Transfiguration Church
“All those women will be coming from a position of incarceration. Their children will have been in foster care under the Child Protective Services, and the women will be in distress themselves because of the way they left their children,” said Paris.
The shelter is staffed by seven workers, some of whom are former clients who are now Certified Alcoholism and Substance Abuse counselors.
“They developed capabilities that they were able to share,” Paris said.
“I’ve been able to hire women that came here straight out of jail, managed to get their lives together and got their families back.”
Brian Bray, special assistant to the commissioner of Social Services, said the administration has already proposed to restore the county’s funding to the level of $495 per month per resident.
The caveat is that it would last only through July, after which there would be 10 percent reduction in that rate every month through January 2015.
The aim is to give shelters, like Paradise House, time to become state certified facilities that are less reliant on the county for funding.
“That’s designed to give them additional time to find other financial resources, because a lot of the services are provided through a state agency called the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services,” Bray said.
“Erie County isn’t in a position to determine the appropriateness of care that these facilities provide,” he added.
Bray said the $495 per month shelter rate that the county provides is an enhanced rate, while the rate of $169 per month is the standard rate the county provides to various nonprofit shelters.
Meanwhile, Erie County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams, D-Buffalo, said there is bipartisan support in the Legislature for restoring county funding to the $495 monthly per resident level, not only for Paradise House but two similar facilities, New Life Residential Center on Memorial Drive in Buffalo and Canaan House on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga.
“All of my colleagues are in support of adequate funding for the women’s shelters,” Miller-Williams said Monday during a news conference at Paradise House, where she and Paris were joined by local leaders, including former Buffalo School Board President Ralph Hernandez.