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Governments need to step up to speed much-needed expansion of City Mission

The Buffalo City Mission fills a vital need for the community. It gets men who have hit hard times off the street and into a structured environment where they can work on getting their lives back on track.

Unfortunately, a growing need means the mission, rooted in “non-denominational evangelical Christian confession of faith” but also serving the secular cause of providing an economic safety net, needs to expand. That need has generated wide support in various leadership sectors of the community.

Funding that expansion is where it gets tricky. City and state leaders should sit down and figure out a solution.

City mission officials have decided, after a lengthy review of 39 properties, to stay put at the edge of downtown and undertake a $31.5 million expansion.

But they need public funds. State and city public funds. As reported, officials are asking for $770,000 from the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant allocation and $1.25 million from the city’s HOME Program funds.

Mission officials believe they stand a better chance of getting money from the state if they first have money from the city. Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown does not want to go first. Understandable. This is a lot of local money and, as the mayor said, there is competition from other equally worthy groups.

The state should be willing to fund its share of the expansion on the promise that the city will follow suit. This gentleman’s agreement, of sorts, would be a way to end the current stare-down between the city and state. Moreover, it would allow an important project to get under way.

According to its website, the City Mission began June 29, 1917, at the behest of baseball hero-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday who, after making a contribution of $8,400 to the Buffalo Evangelistic Association, directed the agency to open a rescue mission.

Today that purpose has grown many times over, and necessitates expansion from its current 153 beds, plus room for 90 cots for emergency shelter.

The current facility at 100 E. Tupper St., in the shadow of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, was built in 1984 and holds the enviable distinction, along with Cornerstone Manor, its partner project for women, of being fully paid.

The need for shelter continues to grow in Buffalo, among the five poorest big cities in the nation. The expansion would add 68 housing units to allow men in its recovery program to transition to independent living. Space for emergency beds would double to 184 during brutally cold weather prompting “Code Blue” alerts.

Downtown Buffalo is in a constant state of development, luring residents and businesses, and improving recreational spaces that attract suburbanites and visitors from outside Western New York’s borders.

But on the edge of all that good news is a safe haven for those who have fallen on hard times. It needs updating and expansion. Local and state leaders need to figure out how to make that happen.