Associate executive director of Buffalo City Mission
By Michael J. Billoni
New community center a “new dawn in our fight to alleviate homelessness”
Aubrey Calhoun, who has worked at the Buffalo City Mission for 14 years and is now its associate executive director, oversees all annual giving, major donor, corporate and church development and outreach programs in line with the organization’s multi-million-dollar Next Century Capital Campaign. Calhoun is committed to ensuring every person who enters the mission has a second chance toward a new journey and stable life. Founded in 1917, the Buffalo City Mission provides preventive, emergency and transitional housing programs to thousands of people who are homeless and impoverished every year.
With an annual budget of $8 million, the Buffalo City Mission has 105 employees and in 2019 served more than 1,620 individuals through its programs and services, providing more than 158,000 meals and more than 73,000 safe nights of sleep shelter for the homeless.
What is the status of your new community center, the Alfiero Family Center of Hope and Promise, on the Buffalo City Mission campus? This new state-of-the-art facility represents a new dawn in our fight to alleviate homelessness. We have tremendous momentum, but there is still work to be done. Today, approximately $13.7 million of a target $15 million has been committed through the City Mission’s Next Century Capital Campaign. The new 75,000-sq.-ft. community center, scheduled to open this summer, is actually being built within the City Mission’s current parking lot at 100 E. Tupper St. and we have remained open throughout the construction process so the homeless can continue to receive the services they need without interruption.
What are some of the new features of the community center specific for your clients and the thought behind them? The community center will provide stronger preventive services to help decrease the percentage of homelessness annually. It will also deliver more complete care to individuals who already experience homelessness. In every sense, it represents a one-stop-shop for helping those who need it most, not just for the mission’s emergency shelter guests and residents, but also for the community at large. The building is part of the City Mission’s vision of moving into the next century to provide services that help prevent and decrease homelessness in the community. It will be the lifeline for our most vulnerable neighbors, and our goal is to make sure everyone in our city has an opportunity to prosper.
What is the Pick-a-Brick campaign and its goal toward the $15 million facility? Pick-a-Brick is a dynamic fundraising initiative that provides individuals and organizations with a special opportunity to contribute a lasting legacy for our new community center. We proudly launched Pick-a-Brick in January with a goal to help raise the last $1 million needed to complete our Next Century Capital Campaign and open the doors to our new community center.
What is the thought behind creating the Pathway to Hope and the importance of engaging community members in this initiative? The Pathway to Hope is the literal pathway in front of the Alfiero Family Center of Hope and Promise. It symbolizes the journey to hope and restoration that our new center represents for every individual impacted by homelessness. Through the “Pick-a-Brick” campaign, donors can select, purchase and personalize their own brick to be included in this Pathway to Hope. We are asking everyone to learn how they can help by visiting pickabrick.org.
What is the state of the homeless community in Erie County? The impact of homelessness is broad. According to a 2018 brief from the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, more than 5,750 people experienced homelessness in Erie County. Approximately 900 individuals are on the streets of Buffalo any given night, and 31% of people in Buffalo live below the poverty line. Of these, 77% are facing homelessness for the first time.