The last several months have been a rocky road for Reginald White.
The 33-year-old Buffalo man is currently unemployed, but he receives Supplemental Security Income from the Social Security Administration.
He had found work in the past through Labor Ready, a temporary agency. But with his schizophrenia, which he treats with medication, it is difficult to keep a job, he said.
Homeless since May, White was among hundreds of people who attended Project Homeless Connect Buffalo 2012 on Thursday in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
The fourth annual forum was for anyone who is low-income, at-risk of homelessness or currently homeless. It was a way for them to get one-stop help from more than 70 human service agencies offering assistance in finding a job, a place to live and health care, and in fulfilling other needs. Free shuttle buses brought people in from local soup kitchens and shelters for the six-hour forum.
Representatives from local agencies provided a wide range of free help, including bike and wheelchair repair, chiropractic services, dental care and referrals, elder services, emergency shelter, financial literacy services, health screenings, legal services, mental health referrals, substance abuse services, services for people with disabilities, public benefits screenings and more.
While in the Convention Center, White got a haircut and an HIV/AIDS test and was on his way to the City Missions table to see if the organization had any beds available.
"All I can do is ask," he said.
The conference also focused on "at-risk" people like Tom Chrosniak, who came to try to get help with avoiding foreclosure on his Buffalo home.
Chrosniak last worked in 2010 as an operations manager at the Miller Tennis Center in Amherst.
He had been there for three years when an accident away from the job left him disabled with a shattered spine, he said.
He has been denied SSI benefits and has a hearing coming up soon.
"I'm trying not to be homeless," Chrosniak said.
Karla Funderburk, 57, is not homeless but had spent the previous night in a shelter after fleeing an abusive situation.
She also is diabetic with high blood pressure and has had a quadruple heart bypass. She came to the event for medical services and to get information about what kind of legal services are available to her, such as help in getting an order of protection against her abuser.
She said she was having trouble getting the man out of her house, and that's why she left.
"I'm just trying to get some help," she said.
One of the service providers was Child and Family Services, which was promoting its Ways to Work Loan Program to help low- to moderate-income people receive loans to purchase cars to get to and from work. The program helps people stay employed, said Erl Presentacion, who works for the agency.
To qualify, applicants must reside in Erie or Niagara counties and have a valid driver's license that has not been suspended or revoked in the last two years, among other criteria.
"They must have employment over the last three months and a dependent child or someone they claim on their income taxes," said Presentacion.
Project Homeless Connect Buffalo was organized by the WNY Coalition for the Homeless, a partnership of community agencies, service providers and individuals joined together to empower and advocate for people in need of safe, affordable and permanent housing.
Project Homeless Connect began in San Francisco in 2004. Buffalo held its first "project" in 2009, and since then, more than 1,000 clients have participated. Almost 4,000 services have been provided. More than 8,000 personal care items have been distributed, and $7,000 in gift cards to stores and restaurants have been distributed, organizers said.