The Hungry and the Homeless of Buffalo


The Hungry and the Homeless of Buffalo


1 In 1979 the Buffalo Food Pantry was created to assist residents who couldn’t afford to feed their families. As the project developed, there were still independent efforts to feed the hungry. In 1980, the Bread Giveaway was one such effort. An organizer expressed the hope that the community would become aware of the fact that, “There are hungry people and there’s an agency now to deal with it.”

Only half a block away from the place where bread was being distributed, a poverty-stricken, laid-off shipping clerk tried to offer his services to load and unload trucks in a desperate attempt to provide milk and other essentials for his two children.

2 For some of Buffalo’s homeless, living quarters are concrete spaces under the New York State Thruway. Some use cardboard to shield themselves from the elements. 67 year old Harvey Bryant was one of them. He was a “hobo” who was barely surviving on food from trash cans. His health was failing when a Buffalo family came to his aid. The City of Buffalo’s Human Resources Department and Catholic Charities were made aware of the case and immediately provided Mr. Bryant with shelter, while also addressing some of his other basic needs.

3 Buffalo soup kitchens faced increased demand in the 1980s during a period when the city experienced economic decline. Families suddenly found themselves in dire need. The federal government set aside money for cities hoping to do more for the homeless and the hungry. Buffalo’s Department of Human Services vowed to cut through red tape in order to help the neediest.

4 Sunny Miano, a modern day Robin Hood, stole money to provide for the needy of Buffalo. He served time for writing bad checks. He then established a soup kitchen called Helping Hands. He became a beloved life-saver for the poor. His operating philosophy: “If we can’t help somebody along the way, what good are we? We’re nothing!”

5 As we entered the new millennium, there were still more than hundred homeless people in Buffalo living in tunnels, under bridges, in abandoned homes, and on the streets.

One of the most compelling and heartbreaking stories was about a man named “Jeff.” He lost both legs to frostbite. Various agencies came to his aid. He was provided a furnished apartment, but sadly, according to reports, he reverted back to heavy drinking and passed away.




Rich Newberg Reports Collection


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Bread for the needy was distributed to 20 different social agencies today in Buffalo, but as Rich Newberg reports the giveaway is viewed as only a beginning.

The first few cases containing some of the 3500 loaves of bread on hand, were loaded into a car on its way back to a daycare center in the city. The bread was donated by am and A's and though this is the result of a two year grassroots effort at getting a food bank network underway, its organizers candidly admit that the impact of this giveaway will be minimal.

A drop in the bucket, a drop in the bucket, but it'll begin it'll it'll start the ball rolling and that's the big thing. Other .. other people will have food to give and they'll suddenly be aware of the fact that they're hungry people and there's an agency now to deal with it. That's the big thing.

I live a block away.

Willie Simmons was also thinking about food as he tried to keep warm near a trash can fire. He was thinking about feeding his two children. Willie Jr., seven, and Melissa, three. Their father was laid off three years ago as a shipping clerk. So now Willie Simmons tries to hustle a few bucks as the big refrigeration trucks pull into the loading docks.

Basically down here. It's just the truck drivers be down here trying to cut you know, whatever. unload trucks load them up. Well, you know, it's hard to get diapers and milk and the eyes and ears, clothes and shoes.

Willie chooses to avoid charity to provide for his children. But the bread that is now being distributed is for families that simply cannot make ends meet families that will gladly receive their fair share has been really difficult. I mean, you barely can make ends meet and you got to turn to the social services and they blacking out some people and some people didn't like noon and you just got to make the best of it. Well, you put a piece of butter on it and you can make a meal. You really can't and bonus. This bread is being dispensed at CAO headquarters at Harvard place where they say the job of feeding the needy is never over. Rich Newberg, news four, Buffalo

His name is Harvey Bryant and right now that appears to be all that he has in life. A named rich Newberg reports now on a man who has taken up residence underneath the New York state thruway.

This is home for 67 year old Harvey Brian. A few pieces of cardboard shielding him from the elements under the Thruway at Scott and Columbia streets.

Recreation for Mr. Bryant is rolling a cigarette from a piece of newspaper. He does it in one smooth, uninterrupted motion.

It is a skill he perfected while drifting from city to city for 30 years. Harvey Bryan is a hobo.

He laughs when you ask him how he survives.

Can this be a little bit gray if you have to go into the trash to get the food? This Mr. Bryant who says he has lived here for five months is concerned about the buffalo winter ahead. He says his health is failing. I'm sick already. I'm sick -- is pretty bad.

While the rest of us entered Good Samaritans Richard Williams and his fiancee Dorothy Liu. They befriended Mr. Bryant this week and they can't understand why nobody has helped. I think it's a shame.

You shouldn't have to live like this. Who's going to do anything? That's how I want to know what is he going to get help? No. The answer is yes. Because Mr. Brian's two friends brought his situation to our attention. We got the city involved.

Two men from the Department of Human Resources found Harvey Bryant toting a railroad tie for firewood. Buffalo has had some frosty nights this week.

I think everybody should have a proper place to live and this is this is really deplorable. And we're here to help Harvey and we're gonna see that it's done.

Mr. Bryan thanked us and said he would be grateful for a roof over his head. He left behind his dinner of two rather crisp pieces of pizza and most of his worldly possessions, Catholic Charities and the city of Buffalo will make sure he is well fed and properly cared for which Neubert news for update.

Buffalo soup kitchens are expecting a very busy winter this year but as rich Newberg reports for us now the city is gearing up to help those whose needs are the greatest.

Could be a long and cold winter for Buffalo's hungry and homeless population. Matthew.

Demand for food and shelter may be greater than current facilities can provide. We know it's gonna be tough. Well, there's more and more hungry people coming in every day more we see more new faces every day. Last week we found Harvey Bryant living under the New York State Thruway we learned today he is being observed at the VA hospital for possible neurological damage due to muggings. city agencies that finally came to his aid found he was unable to collect his social security benefits because he has no permanent address. But the problem As winter approaches goes beyond the so called street people. Could you end up on the streets this winter.

Diane Cole is living in a house without furniture with her two sons. What happens if you don't get furniture? Because I wouldn't be homeless I won't even know where to go to children.

What are your concerns about them?

How to do everything to ward off a possible crisis. This winter. The federal government is making millions of dollars available to cities across the country and buffalo we'll share on that funding. We would like to make a collective effort so we can get everyone together, bring them together and cut some of the red tape that it takes to help some of our homeless people. For those looking toward winter with sorrowful eyes. There is now hope hope that the Harvey Bryant's will be few and far between rich Newberg views for Buffalo

Here's a man who feeds about 200 people a day in his soup kitchen on Massachusetts Street here in Buffalo News. Ford's rich Newberg now has the story of a man who discovered his calling the hard way. Come on, here we go. can eat all that nobody goes hungry who enters Sunny Beat's soup kitchen known as helping hands do they get a hug and everybody knows they are welcome here. For me. It's a satisfaction that I'm able to help.

There were times when I needed help and no one was there. Sonny Nieto knows what it's like to be down and out. He went through a painful period in his life, but even when he was committing crimes that landed him in federal prison. He never forgot the poor. It was nine years ago when Sonny Miotto went to prison for writing bad checks. He had been addicted to prescription drugs for a skin ailment that still leaves scars all over his body today, put yourself covered with crawling neons and being stung with bees the same time though he was confused and sick at the time. He acted like a modern day Robin Hood using the stolen money to buy food, clothing and furniture for the needy. I guess it's always been in me to help people. I always wanted to be a monk good preaching hopefully like that, but never did achieve them. So this was my way of doing it. Now Sonny Nieto operates his soup kitchen and food pantry through donations. Many of those he helps don't know his story, but they realized they would be lost without helping hands. I don't know where I would be. I mean, I would probably be out in the streets looking for food.

So what motivates this man who runs Helping Hands faith? I think he has faith in himself that he wants to help people. If we can't help somebody along the way. What good are we good at we were nothing rich Newberg us for update

Life will go on for the man who just wants to be called Jeff.

It's day one just as life goes on for 100 to 150 others who on any given day live just out of sight in buffaloes tunnels under bridges and abandoned homes and in the streets in order to go over to cold blue tonight the van will be there. Okay.

Stay warm. While there are well over 5000 homeless people a year in Erie County. Who are in and out of shelters. Only a small percentage, perhaps 50 or 60 will try and tough it out. When the weather becomes severe. Jeff was one of them.

Most of the time was wildlife.

Survival was only in real bad weather. Jeff somehow survived for two years, mostly living around this shopping center in North buffalo until the blizzards and the bone chilling temperatures of recent unrelenting buffalo winters. Finally, claimed both of his legs.


Jason Flores who reaches out to the homeless for the matt urban Hope Center had become concerned when Jeff could no longer be found.

He finally tracked him down at the Erie County Medical Center where Jeff's life had been saved before after frostbite had earlier claimed some of his toes and part of one of his legs. This time, Jason made a vow at Jeff's bedside. We'll do what we have to do. Jeff will not return to the streets. We'll make sure that Thanks Jeff. We're gonna miss you. I'm gonna miss everybody. Jeff now is about to begin a new chapter of his life, mustering up the strength that helped him battle alcoholism, and long stretches of time without a job. He was once a cook. arrangements have been made to place Jeff in his own apartment. That's where he is heading now. But he has concerns.

In the farming neighborhood, I've never been there before. I got to meet new people and everything. So that's a wheel. But this time Jeff has a network of people who not only believe in him, but are in a position to help what you're trying to instill in him. That he's gotten. He has what it takes to to to get past this and he can live safely. Jeff is now part of the housing first program, which places the chronically homeless in permanent supportive housing. He's in an apartment he's not in the street sees he has food, he has clothing, he gets a phone. Yes TV, everything needs to move on to the next level in his life. But that last part solely rests with Jeff now. He's taking a positive approach. I can reach the door hangers on your closet. I'm not worried about that. There will be help for him to reach new goals. I appreciate the help. I definitely want to get back to work if I can. I'm sure there's work out there at some point. You got to have a positive attitude. I've got 10 I'm gonna get get through and get by

Jason Flores has something to offer to the homeless people he is about to encounter me come into to offer them hope to hook them up with services. He knows where they live.

They live in the places where life passes them by staying warm. Do you want to go into shelter? cold blue tonight.

Want somebody come pick you up?

The man declined shelter but knows where the van will be parked? If he becomes desperate. As ironic as it is, you know, in the shadows of the million dollar buildings that were building down the canal side. We still have homelessness. You know we still have people sleeping under bridges and, you know in tunnels here under this tunnel next to these railroad tracks. A homeless dormitory of blankets and mattresses on hard rocks.

It looks like there's some probably two people sleeping here you see some some woman's undergarments here and most likely a male is probably accompanying her. This shivering raccoon is now living in this space that jar Vaughn brown used to call home setup right here.

Right now they're outside homeless people just appear nobody's around anymore. It's just you in the streets. And if you can find someone to help you, it's a blessing. Jason Flores was a blessing to Javon. He worked with him for a year after finding him under a frozen blanket. And he was laying in the blanket and it was literally a sheet of ice it was frozen solid. Giovane now works at the Matt Urban Hope Center and plans on earning an associate's degree in business. He is proof says Jason that every living soul on the street can be say his story is what keeps me going.

Clients that are difficult to work with and hard to engage with. I just think Javon and did the effort that he put into it. Eventually it does pay off in the end

Well, the bars that went up under these bridges have had a chilling effect on relations between homeless advocates and buffalo city police. The bars stretch across the concrete slabs were Buffalo's homeless find shelter from the elements homeless people like Pierre and others suddenly disappeared from sight and from the outreach workers who were trying to help them. Now we can't find them. So it can't find you. You can't house you, you know, so it's just more challenging for us to be able to find them. There are more than three dozen chronically homeless people who live like this in Buffalo and there have been coordinated efforts with the police to get them off the streets and into housing. But no warning was given even though Buffalo Police knew the bars would be put up by the State Department of Transportation. We get blindsided by a narrow minded approach that actually makes it more difficult for us to achieve our goal. Buffalo Police say there have been community complaints about heroin needles on sidewalks and public lewdness, but agencies dealing with the homeless would like to have had at least a heads up because once you violate somebody's trust, it's hard to rebuild that. Coming up at six why Buffalo was positioned to become a city solving the problems of the chronically homeless, Rich Newberg, News Four

How sweet it's been to see buffalo, Bing again, is going to be back it's going to be bigger and better than it ever was before, with a billion dollars earmarked by the state for growth and development

Buffalo's on the move

And yet we are a city still struggling with issues of homelessness, inner city crime and failing schools with stagnated within it changing superintendents and in an environment where we see all kinds of opportunities opening up for people. It's not happening for the poor and minority people in the city. of Buffalo. We are still one of the poorest cities in America.

It has always troubled me deeply to see the chronically homeless living in the shadows of the city.

Stay warm if you want to go into shelter, get your vital. Some I got to know including Jeff, most of the time was away life. Survival was only in real bad weather. Jeff somehow survived for two years, mostly living around this shopping center in North buffalo. Until the blizzards and a bone chilling temperatures of recent unrelenting buffalo winters finally claimed both of his legs.

Yeah, I followed his story even as he was given his own apartment. Thanks to the outreach agencies. That are making great strides to eliminate chronic homelessness and buffalo. But only months after I reported on Jeff's attempt at a new life. I learned that he had passed away reverting back to drinking, compromising his health even further. A Life in the balance should we be doing more to help the mentally ill cope in society? I raised that question 16 years ago, working with Tom Vetter, a gifted photo journalist with a deep social conscience. We entered the world of men and women trying to desperately eke out a life in boarding houses and on the streets are physically more intense. I can't handle it when I'm off my medication and then just try and commit suicide.

They were existing from day to day, but many could have received much greater care. You have to meet all the needs. If you meet only part of them. It falls apart

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