Local nonprofits tapped to help lead Buffalo's fight against poverty

Dec 2, 2016

Despite seeing the most fruitful period of economic development in recent history, many residents and areas in the City of Buffalo continue to struggle with poverty. As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative, both the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, and the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo will help the city create a work plan to change that.


Mayor Byron Brown announced the selection on Friday afternoon. While there have been past efforts to reduce poverty in communities like Buffalo, Brown said this time will be different because no one entity is working along.

United Way of Buffalo and Erie County President & CEO Michael Wiener
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

“The county can’t do it by itself. The city can’t do it by itself. The state can’t do it by itself. So what really is different here is that we are going to bring all of the stakeholders together with the community to work in a collective fashion.”

Together, the group will be working to find strategies for changing systems and re-allocating funds where needed.

Out of the 16 communities involved in the state-wide initiative, Buffalo is one of nine who’s plan is being spearheaded in part by a United Way organization – an advantage, according to United Way of Buffalo and Erie County President and CEO Michael Wiener.

“So we will be enabled to share information, and leverage, and learning materials and best practices from those communities as well,” said Wiener.

Wiener noted that the organization’s near-century of experience working to address the changing needs of the community gives them a unique perspective and makes the United Way the right organization for the task. He said the planning stage of the initiative will take between six and nine months, not longer.

“We will convene a task force. It will include a broad cross-section of community stakeholders that is sufficiently diverse and inclusive,” said Wiener. “We will also take advantage of the important coalition work locally, including that work that’s already underway through Say Yes Buffalo, the Racial Equity Roundtable, and also workforce development efforts.”

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

State Assemblywoman Crystal-Peoples Stokes said the initiative is about working with members of the community who continue to struggle with poverty. But she noted that poverty is not just about being out of work, but often working while underpaid.

“So I think that this poverty initiative has to do more than just look at people who don’t have the necessary soft skills and or social skills to be able to go into employment,” said Peoples-Stokes. “It also has to look at those folks who are working and are just, unfortunately, in a position where they’re not being paid enough to take them out of the poverty level.”

Buffalo has already received $500,000 for the planning phase of the initiative, which will create an outline for the use of an additional $2.7 million in state funding.

Anyone interested in applying for the Task Force Director position can apply online at www.uwbec.org/careers.