The Matt Urban Hope Center opened a few months ago in Polonia Hall on Paderewski Drive. A couple of weeks ago I sent the Hope Center’s Director Karen Carman some questions about the Center and she was kind enough to respond.
BFA: What was the inspiration and the impetus to open the Hope Center?
KC: My partner, Joyelle Tedeschi, and I have worked together for many years (crisis Services and then the YWCA of WNY. We saw a gap in services to the homeless on the east-side. As an MSW intern, Joyelle did a community needs assessment which revealed needs, not only for the homeless, but for people at high risk of becoming homeless, e.g. those living in extreme proverty. Current homeless programs provide services to the homeless only – our Hope Center provides services to anyone in need in our service area.
BFA: Why was the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood chosen for the center?
KC: Once a thriving neighborhood – the most populous of the east-side – Broadway-Fillmore has seen a 50% reduction in its population over that time period primarily due to the loss of well-paying jobs and a faltering economy. As a result, the community has seen a dramatic shift in its complexion from traditional two-parent family homes to single, mother-headed households with young children (nearly 30% of residents are under 18 years of age) and senior citizens who have lived in the community for most of their lives (approximately 16% of the local population).
The community’s unemployment rate approaches 17% and nearly 25% of persons aged twenty-five years and older do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Only 6.7% of persons in this age range have secured a bachelor’s or graduate degree. As a result, nearly 40% of community residents live below the federal poverty line – one of the highest rates in the city of Buffalo.