Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

November 23, 2012

Uprooted for a cause

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Local ministers joined forces Tuesday to shine light on a hard-to-see problem in the community.

Eric Johns, pastor of the Buffalo Dream Center, and Craig Campbell, newly appointed lead pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church, spent the night talking and praying with homeless folks and volunteers at Lockport CARES on Genesee Street.

These Lockport High School graduates are on a mission to raise public awareness of homelessness in eastern Niagara County.

The mission seems necessary in part because most homeless here don’t fit the stereotypical profile — older male, troubled by mental health and/or substance abuse issues, living in a cardboard box or under a bridge. The lack of visible proof of a problem leads people to assume we don’t have one.

The numbers, and the anecdotes, say otherwise.

Homeless are “everywhere ... in Buffalo, the suburbs and other communities,” Johns said.

“Housing is a big need,” said Campbell, whose church is a supporter of Lockport CARES.

The Lockport Community Action Response Emergency Shelter, a non-profit enterprise forged by several dozen area churches and service agencies three years ago, has temporarily housed 226 people since January, 22 people in the month of October alone.

They’re men, women and children, very often young adults, who couldn’t make a rent payment, or lost their housing to condemnation, according to shelter director Marty Nagy.

The homeless by definition are people who don’t have a permanent address. In communities of all sizes and types — urban, suburban and rural — they often bounce from relative’s home to friend’s home, back and forth, sleeping where they can until their welcome is worn. The lack of a permanent residence can make it tough to hold down a job, go to school, even to receive social services.

So observes Johns, a former Faith Tabernacle staff member who’s been ministering in Buffalo’s inner city the past 19 years.

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