Grant Addresses Affordable Housing, Homelessness

By | March 18, 2022

Daemen University’s Institute for Government and Nonprofit Innovation, Training, and Evaluation (IGNITE) assisted Housing Options Made Equal (HOME) and Live Well – Erie County’s Housing Task Force – in securing a three-year $350,000 Moving Forward Together implementation grant to help build the affordable housing infrastructure in Buffalo and Erie County. 

In the past year, IGNITE has helped secure more than $4 million in multi-year funding for local non-profits and community coalitions by providing critical applied research, grant writing, and strategic planning support to address various social issues.

Since its founding in 2014, IGNITE has worked on more than 150 projects with local and regional organizations.

The funds for the latest grant will be provided through the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo from a fund established during the pandemic called Moving Forward Together. This is one of the first grants of the effort that will move to implementation.

“The whole effort is focused on changing the way we do business with regard to affordable housing,” said Diane R. Bessel, director of IGNITE, chair, and associate professor in the Department of Social Work and Sociology at Daemen. “It’s work around homelessness and homelessness prevention, helping people to be able to live in communities that they want to live in with good schools, jobs, access to transportation, and all the comforts that anyone would want.”

IGNITE was responsible for engaging in community-based research, helping to coordinate planning work among partnering organizations – more than 35 in total, building a comprehensive affordable housing strategy, and then writing the grant to receive the funds. IGNITE will also remain in a support role to facilitate the project’s implementation.

“It’s intended to make local resources more accessible,” said Bessel, who is also director of Daemen’s Master of Social Work (MSW) Program. “We’re putting together a housing portal that will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that will help people who are having difficulties with housing.”

The county is about 75,000 housing units short of current need, according to a recent Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) study.

“We’re trying to create a different system so that people have better access to housing that meets their needs and promotes equity,” added Bessel. “We are aiming to have our resources work better to make sure people who are experiencing housing instability are getting help before they fall into homelessness.”

Part of the grant will also support development of new housing models.

President Gary Olson, Lawrence Cook II of the John R. Oishei Foundation, Dr. Diane Bessel, and Dr. Michael Brogan.

President Olson, Lawrence Cook II of the John R. Oishei Foundation, Bessel, and Provost Michael Brogan cut the ribbon on IGNITE’s renovated offices, 2019

“We’re hoping by the end of the 3-year grant, we will have increased affordable housing options coming online,” said Bessel. “Overall, it’s homelessness prevention. It’s keeping people from being evicted. It’s helping people get housing that’s safe, accessible, and affordable.”

Recent projects assisted by IGNITE also include:

  •   A local study of youth at risk for trafficking for the International Institute of Buffalo which enabled them to secure a $665,000 Office of Victims of Crime grant to expand identification and strengthen services to minor victims of labor trafficking in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Genesee, and Wyoming counties;
  •   A comprehensive needs assessment of local refugee youth which helped Jewish Family Services secure a $2.2 million SAMHSA grant to implement Trauma Sensitive Therapy for Refugees (TST-R), an evidence-based intervention specifically designed to reduce barriers to mental health services commonly faced by refugee youth and families;
  •   Applied research support to the Western District of New York Human Trafficking Task Force which was recently awarded its second, three-year contract ($750,000) from the US Department of Justice to offer trafficking prevention, prosecution, and trauma-informed intervention services.

Over the next several years, IGNITE will continue to collaborate with each of these partners by providing planning and evaluation support and engaging Daemen’s social work students in field placements and other service activities.

“The success of IGNITE and great work of the department overall has certainly increased Daemen’s footprint, supported our mission, and brought distinction to our faculty,” said Michael Brogan, provost of Daemen.

Since 2014, IGNITE has connected Daemen’s social work faculty with non-profit organizations, foundations, schools, and community groups to provide strategic planning, support implementing best practices, and other technical assistance. Training sessions and continuing education for licensed social work professionals are also offered through IGNITE on a range of topics such as child welfare, homelessness, financial stability, and cultural competency.