Even before the onset of COVID-19, report data for the Buffalo Niagara region shows that poverty remained persistent and growing by 5 percent, outpacing total population growth of only .01% since 2011. The new regional report, Numbers in Need, was developed by the Mobile Safety-Net Team in partnership with the University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI).
Numbers in Need is an update of a series of printed reports created in 2012, primarily in response to the impact of the recession of 2008 and how regional communities were impacted. The report was developed using various public information sources and includes insights from residents and service providers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. For those living in or near the poverty level, access to transportation, consumer debt, and affordable housing were cited as contributing factors in the Buffalo Niagara region and are expected to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. The regional report and 12 individual community reports are available on a new interactive website at www.NumbersInNeed.org.
The new website provides a depth of statistical data, resident input, and perspective from social service providers to highlight specific, critical needs in 12 Western New York communities. The online resource was developed to support community leaders, human service providers, government officials, the philanthropic community, and others in understanding the most pressing needs relating to poverty and economic vulnerability in the Buffalo Niagara Region.
The Regional Report key findings included:
● The previously strong economy expanded opportunity but did not eliminate poverty
● Integrated solutions are needed to address interrelated factors that lead to poverty
● Many would benefit from job training or education and many with low wage jobs face barriers to economic stability including debt, childcare issues, or transportation challenges
● Disability is common in lower income households
● Housing issues such as increasing rents, unsafe housing, and absentee landlords are challenges
Numbers in Need offers community-level data that identifies people and places in need and factors that matter such as access to jobs, educational attainment, household income, affordable housing, and safe neighborhoods. As ramifications of the pandemic are expected to increase challenges for low-income households, the report can be used as a baseline for poverty and the factors that contribute to it in the Buffalo Niagara region. The regional picture can also be used to benchmark each community and the ability to track trends in poverty levels. The research focuses on representative urban, suburban, and rural communities, including the City of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, that are home to over half of those in the region who live in or near poverty.
The website includes data, information, and research findings for each of the 12 communities and offers insights, lessons, and models for all communities in the region and beyond. Also included is an interactive mapping tool to identify service providers in relation to at-risk populations in each community.
In addition to data, the website includes insights from residents and community service providers who share the perspectives of vulnerable populations living in the community and the service providers who work there. Offering more than just problem identification, the website also offers a section on strategies and models that offers ideas, actions, and examples for spurring thought, conversation, and activity toward a stronger safety net of human services.
According to Lawrence H. Cook, Vice President and Program Officer of The John R. Oishei Foundation, “As our community is facing significant new challenges as a result of the COVID crisis, these reports will be more important than ever in understanding the challenges already faced by low-income communities and in developing solutions as some issues will become more prevalent. Using this data and the insights from residents and providers, the Mobile Safety-Net Team, an initiative of the Oishei Foundation, will continue to work in these communities to help address issues and to create stronger community supports.”
The Mobile Safety-Net Team is an initiative of The John R. Oishei Foundation formed in 2009 as a local response to the nation’s economic downturn. The team uses research-informed practices to support and cultivate collaborations to strengthen under-resourced communities. They envision a thriving region that has the necessary resources to address community needs.
The University at Buffalo Regional Institute is a major research center within the UB School of Architecture and Planning. UBRI partners with foundations, local governments, not for profits, and others to guide informed decision making and to positively impact communities. UBRI focuses on topics such as economic development, workforce development, community revitalization, economic security, transportation, and more.
To learn more, visit www.NumbersInNeed.org