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Mayor announces funding for Buffalo City Mission

Mayor Byron Brown said on Wednesday that he is ready to give nearly $2 million in city financial support to the proposed expansion of the Buffalo City Mission.

“My administration and the council do want to fund the expansion,” Brown said during an event at Cornerstone Manor, the mission’s partner facility for women. “If the other levels of funding come through, we certainly will provide funding on the city’s side.”

The expansion is expected to cost $31.5 million and add 68 long-term housing units and double the space for emergency beds to 184 for homeless men in Buffalo and Erie County.

The city is being asked for $1.25 million from its HOME Program and $770,000 from its federal Community Development Block Grant allocation.

Other levels of funding would cover the bulk of the cost of the new building. The mission has applied for about $14 million in tax credits, plus $7.5 million from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, $2.2 million from the state Housing Trust Fund Corporation and more from other sources.

Stuart Harper, executive director of the City Mission, said he expects to hear in late spring or early summer whether the state funding is approved. Groundbreaking for the expansion – a three-story building designed by Carmina Wood Morris, P.C., to fit over the mission’s existing parking area – would be in the fall.

The mission project has been years in the planning and has secured written support from a host of social service agencies, the Erie County Legislature, local representatives in state government, area foundations, the University at Buffalo and several city developers, include Howard Zemsky, head of Empire State Development Corp. The current mission was built in 1984 and is located on East Tupper and Ellicott Street, between downtown and the Medical Campus.

Talking about the work of the mission in general, Brown referenced his State of the City address, which had the theme “Building a City of Opportunity.”

“When we think of opportunity, we have to think of everybody,” Brown said. “We want to support the mission to not only transform lives but to put those lives back on track.”

Also on Wednesday, Brown announced that the city will increase its funding for Code Blue emergency services from $45,000 to $63,000.

For the past four years, the Code Blue program has sent out vans on frigid nights to bring chronically homeless individuals to safe shelter at the mission, Cornerstone Manor and St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy on Walden Avenue.

Harper expressed gratitude on behalf of the mission for the added Code Blue funding, saying there was an 80 percent increase in the number of people coming in this year compared with last winter.

He said the mayor’s unexpected offer of more money “allowed us to refill our coffers and to pay our staff members who worked so many extra hours.”

The mayor said there is no question the emergency services were needed this year. “This was one of the roughest winters that we have seen in a long time, maybe one of the roughest in history,” Brown said. “I dare say Code Blue was life-saving work. Unfortunately, two lives were lost, but without Code Blue it could have been many, more people.”

The increase brings the city’s total annual funding for the mission to $123,000.