2020 was a year that many of us had to pivot. For some that means working from home. Others it meant closing down their business due to the pandemic. All of us have had to adapt to the new reality thrusted upon us last year. Here at Hearts For The Homeless we’ve had to make some dramatic pivots as well, to continue to serve the local community of Buffalo. While our methods and offerings have certainly changed, our mission has never wavered.
For the last 30 years, Hearts has consistently been feeding the homeless and poor and has been the only Mobile Soup Kitchen in Western New York. We’ve been serving food outside the Buffalo & Erie County Library downtown, 52 weeks of the year. We have dedicated volunteer Mobile Crews that distribute nourishing hot meals as our shuttle-sized bus pulls up to the line that forms along the Ellicott St. side of the library. In addition to feeding a nourishing meal, our clients receive brand new or gently used blankets, socks, coats, gloves, hats, scarves, other seasonal gear, clothing, pertinent information regarding area services, companionship, and hope for the future.
We knew when the virus first arrived that nutrition would be an area of community health that would take a hit. In order to best help those impacted in our community, we identified the need that agencies housing the homeless and others, affected by COVID, would have. Since feeding the poor and homeless is the core program offered through our organization, it was a natural progression to extend this service to include these agencies into our current feeding program at no cost to them, utilizing grant money from local partners and donors.
Prior to COVID, we were feeding 50-75 people a night; since COVID the number we feed outside the library decreased to between 15-40 people per night; however, we found that those who are not currently using our food service at the library are receiving the meals we are sending to the COVID shelters where they are staying. Providing these extra meals has increased the number of people in need that we have helped. On average, pre-COVID, we were serving 375 meals per week during our routine daily distribution at the library. Since the onset of COVID, in addition to our additional outreach programs, we have been supplying upwards of 440 extra meals a week.
Thankfully during the pandemic, the state of New York has had a moratorium on residential evictions. This has allowed thousands of struggling New York residents to keep a roof over their heads and ease the burden in making the choice to feed their family or pay rent. The moratorium has had some extensions as COVID continued to cause immense harm, but the extensions have come to an end. On May 3rd, “the State legislature announced that an extension on the eviction moratorium has passed. But, it will now go through August 31st.
Hearts realizes that the ending of the Eviction Moratorium means that many people will be evicted and face homelessness. We will be sharing as much resource information as we can with those in need. The most important resource information to get out to those in need, homeless or otherwise, is called 211 WNY. All one needs to do is call the number 211 from a phone and they will be connected to the access point for people seeking information and services; or go online and do independent research with a huge database of information according to needs.
For those who do not succeed in getting help and become homeless or get some help, but not enough, Hearts will be there to distribute food, clothing, and supplies. We intend to continue our feeding program long after COVID is a threat and continue to seek outreach opportunities and partnerships with other agencies to fulfill our mission to feed the poor and homeless. Hearts will always be ready to pivot based on the needs of the community.
If you would like to contribute to our mission, please consider donating monetarily, donate items to our outreach center or purchase items from our Amazon Wishlist.