Homelessness on the rise in Erie County

Mar 28, 2013

Erie County has seen a dramatic rise in homelessness. The Department of Social Services says nearly 2,200 individuals were placed in emergency homeless shelters in 2012, up 14 percent from 2011.

The department's assistant Deputy Commissioner, Karen Rybicki says the reasons for homelessness vary.

"The economy obviously is an issue that is affecting individuals who are faced with homeless populations.  Some of the other issues may be unforeseen circumstances that affect families...a loss of a job, it could be due to medical issues that cause an individual or family to be displaced from their home," Rybicki said.

Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, accounting for nearly one-third of all placements.

"When individuals identify with a homeless population, you think of a single male who may be sleeping under a bridge. But we're seeing, based on the economy, more and more families, individuals with children, being displaced from their homes," Rybicki said.

Rybicki says the county works with the Buffalo City Mission, the Salvation Army, Haven House, and other agencies to meet the needs of the homelessness.  She says that includes short-term needs and long-term assistance to get  individuals and families back on their feet.

On an average night, 45 families and 76 single adults are placed in shelters by the Department of Social Services.