Researchers say nearly one-third of Buffalo-Niagara residents live in or near poverty

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 17:27:19-04

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Since last June, the Mobile Safety-Net Team and University at Buffalo's Regional Institute have taken a deep dive in 12 communities in the Buffalo-Niagara region.
Their findings: nearly one-third of Buffalo-Niagara residents live in or near poverty. That’s a statistic dating before Covid-19.

The communities:

  • Akon-Newstead
  • Buffalo (East)
  • Buffalo (West)
  • Cheektowaga
  • Lackawanna
  • Lockport
  • Newfane
  • Niagara Falls
  • Springville Concord
  • Tonawanda and North Tonawanda
  • Town of Tonawanda
  • West Seneca

“Even though the economy was growing and unemployment was at a very low level before COVID-19, poverty was on the rise in many communities,”associate director of research at UBRI Sharon Anaentress said.

For months, Anaentress went into different communities interviewing residents and service providers to collect primary source information about the poverty issues in our area.

“You can only get so much from numbers," she said. "To really understand the numbers and to understand, let’s say why poverty has been increasing, you really need to be out in the communities.”

Anaentress said she conducted more than 2600 resident surveys among the 12 communities. She even interviewed food service providers like Resurrection Life Food Pantry in Cheektowaga.

“Well since the 2008 reports came out, here in the suburbs, we were sort of at an even keel," director of Resurrection Life Food Pantry Kim Reynolds said. "But since that time, we’ve seen more than a double increase. COVID has, I would say... tripled it.”

Lawrence Cook Vice President of the John Oishei Foundation said COVID-19 may only intensify the findings in the Numbers in Need reports.

“So if housing was a concern, transportation was a concern, various access to health opportunities was a concern," he said. "Only gonna get worse.”

But, he is also hoping that the data collected from the report will help communities prepare for what’s to come.

"We’re able to put together a very interactive website which we can put update more quickly so that data is fresher and easier to use.”

The website also offers strategies and solutions for each community struggling with poverty to consider. For more information on the Numbers in Need report, click here.