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Buffalo House of Hope opens doors to those seeking asylum


The ribbon cutting symbolized opening the doors to opportunity, as well as shelter. The Buffalo House of Hope opened those doors on July 22 to house asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants.

Father Ross Syracuse, OFM Conv., Father Timothy Koester, OFM Conv., Paula Hunt and Father Roy Herberger cut the ribbon officially opening the new Buffalo House of Hope on the grounds of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Athol Springs. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

Resettlement organizations such as Jericho Road, Jewish Family Services, and International Institute of Buffalo will vet incoming immigrants and refer them to the Buffalo House of Hope as a shelter.

The Athol Springs location, in a convent on the grounds of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, formerly housed the Buffalo Peace House, which consolidated to one location in Hamburg. It can house 14-16 people in its many bedrooms. It also has a living room and fully remodeled kitchen.

“I refer to it as a shelter, but to the people who live here it is a home,” said Paula Hunt, treasurer of the 501(C3) organization.

Residents will come mostly from Africa and Latin America. Some will come from Mexico and Cuba. They may stay anywhere from a couple weeks to six months while they seek legal status and a permanent home.

“We want to follow people from the minute they set foot in here,” explained Hunt. “We get them through all their legal stuff. We want to help them with their trauma coming from where they’re coming from. And once they get their working papers and their Social Security card, they are given three months in here to accumulate money because they’re working, then we help them find housing.”

A group called Churches in Action collect furniture for the residents when it is time to move on to a new home.

“Then when they do move on, we want to follow them for a year afterwards,” said Father Roy Herberger, president of the board of directors. “If they need furniture or if they need anything to settle into their own place. We don’t want to kick them out the door and say good luck. We want to be there to support them that first year.”

At the ribbon cutting, Father Herberger explained that he got involved in resettlement programs after meeting a young man from El Salvador nearly 40 years ago.

“All these years later, since 1985, I’m still in touch with him. I’ve developed a real friendship with him and his family. A number of years later, I’m grateful for that blessing in my life having known him and his situation,” he said.

Father Herberger has been involved with similar institutions Vive La Casa and Buffalo Peace House.

Father Ross Syracuse, OFM Conv., the former pastor of St. Francis and board advisor, thanked the members of the St. Francis Faith Community, calling them the unsung heroes who welcomed strangers in the spirit of  Matthew 25:36 – “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Buffalo House of Hope has four big needs. First is a generator. Being located in Athol Springs, the house is prone to power outages during snowstorms. Residents who use oxygen or C-Pap machines cannot afford to have an outage.

Secondly, a house manager is needed to stay with the residents at night. Volunteers help with the driving during the day.

Thirdly, there is a need for people who can sustain them with regular donations. The house receives no government funding.

There also is a need for culturally appropriate foods. “They need to have their staples like we need to have our staples,” said Hunt.

Partners include Province Farm in Orchard Park, St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, WNY Muslims, Family of Parishes #21, and Family of Parishes #29.