The walls are up, the tile is down, the bunks are assembled, and the beds are made. There is even a playground and some nice landscaping around 586 Genesee St., the home of the new Matt Urban Hope House.
Perhaps the biggest surprise about this new housing for homeless women and children is how quickly it was turned from a dream to a plan, and from an empty building to a welcoming residence. From the time the building was acquired in April to its ribbon-cutting Wednesday was just about six weeks, according to Marlies Wesolowski, executive director of the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Hope Center on Buffalo’s East Side, which spearheaded the project.
“I’m told that our certificate of occupancy will be ready today at 3 o’clock,” Wesolowski told the gathering at the center’s christening. “On Monday morning we expect to start accepting clients – women, and women with children.”
The opening of the Hope House is part of a county and city effort to expand assistance for homeless families, with a range of services dedicated to helping homeless women recover from personal, physical and financial trauma and move to stable, permanent housing.
The project was expedited through the permitting process and completed with help from Savarino Construction Services Corp., Jacrist Gardening Services, Grace Point Alliance and Kenmore Alliance churches, and the participation of dozens of volunteers.
It has room for up to 50 residents in dormitory-style rooms, with a separate living room, play area and dining room, and is part of a comprehensive reworking of how service agencies work with the homeless.
“We have families with children who need a different approach to find and retain permanent housing,” said Carol Dankert-Maurer, Erie County commissioner of social services. She cited the many problems that afflict homeless children at far greater rates than average – more illness, attention and behavior issues, failing more grades and falling victim to sexual abuse.
The goal of Hope House and other shelters will be to limit the time families spend homeless and in shelters and to also limit the trauma the women and children experience.