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Assistance programs Erie County New York and Buffalo

Find financial help in Buffalo and Erie County. Numerous charities, churches as well as government assistance programs from Social Services offer funds to pay for utility or heating bills as well as rent, offer gasoline or transportation programs, grants for paying a mortgage, and there is also free groceries from a pantry. Low income families, seniors, and the disabled in Buffalo and the county can find how to apply for help below.

Not only that, there is also government financial assistance and cash for paying bills. Residents can also find free winter clothes, school supplies, household items like furniture or free diaper banks as well as Christmas toys. Many resources are offered in the Buffalo region.

Emergency financial assistance programs in Erie County

The Community Action Organization of Erie County (CAOEC) provides several resources and services to Buffalo residents, as well as every town and village in Erie County. You can contact them at 881-5150 to learn about their programs, or to apply for assistance. Find additional resources and services below.

  • The services CAO provides include housing, employment, rent assistance, mental health, mortgage help, family development, chemical dependency, youth services, health care, minor home repair, senior services, Head Start, and more.
  • The CAO has a primary goal of counseling and assessing an applicants situation. They can provide short-term assistance to families and individuals during a crisis or an emergency that threatens their ability to maintain basic needs, such as clothing, food, and shelter. The emergency assistance program provides information, referrals and financial assistance (based on budget available) to qualified households, following an assessment of their situation and need, and of course in accordance with the non-profits guidelines.
  • CAO's emergency assistance funds are disbursed to help pay for expenses such as basic shelter, money can provide essential nutrition or medical attention, and funds can even be used to help people obtain clothing necessary for protection against the weather.




  • CAOEC is also part of the nationwide community action organization. The site, with locations across the county and Buffalo, is committed to helping people overcome their challenges, including exiting poverty or a low income status. So they offer clients various emergency assistance programs and social services.
  • Education and job training from the Employment Agency Initiative or Erie County.
  • Financial help for bills or housing, or referrals to programs such as HEAP, from Emergency Services Division.
  • Information on food pantries or SNAP food stamps.
  • Community Action Organization of Erie County CAO New Ventures housing program is offered too. This offers housing, mortgage, and rent assistance to low income families and individuals. Some of the financial aid that can be provided include a grant for first month's rent, funds for one month past due rent (to prevent eviction). They may even be able to offer funds for one month past due mortgage payment to prevent a foreclosure filing. Find additional mortgage assistance programs in New York.

The non-profit supports all of the city of Buffalo and county of Erie.. Much more is offered too, including referrals. Click community action programs in Erie County.

In addition to programs offered by the Erie county CAO above, the Buffalo Salvation Army provides crisis assistance. They run the Emergency Family Assistance Program as well as gives out free items or case management. Based on resources they provide people with free food from an on site pantry, run a holiday and free Christmas Assistance Program (including toys and meals), and offer an employment and job finding program. They may also have grants that can be used for paying rent, gasoline or other critical costs.





The local Salvation Army branch runs also the Emergency Family Assistance Program. This program can help people pay for bills, including medical, rent, and energy bills. Occasionally the Salvation Army can also provide money for heating and other energy bills. Or they give out free school uniforms as well as back to school supplies. Get more details, or call the agency at (716) 883-9800. More on the Salvation Army Erie County assistance programs.

Old First Ward Community Association - Housing Rehab assistance for qualified Owner Occupants. The organization also offer housing information and referrals, homebuyer assistance. Senior Nutrition & transportation, and a Youth Afterschool program. The  Buffalo River Food Pantry is also on site. (716) 856-8613

St Vincent De Paul St Amelia (phone (716) 836-0011) - This non-profit provides food assistance to low income individuals and families who are in need of help. Also, the center provides financial assistance for paying for appliances, furnace repairs as well as free heating units and utility bills if needed by qualified applicants. More information on St Amelia assistance programs.

Several other churches and St. Vincent centers operate in the region. Additional services such as prescription medications, self-sufficiency (known as Back On Track), free clothing and more is offered. There are also low cost thrift stores. A volunteer will often visit the Erie County New York family to determine eligibility. Continue with St. Vincent Buffalo and Erie County assistance programs.

WNYHeroes Inc. – Military veterans and families can get help with basic needs and expenses, including rent help, money for mortgage, free food, heating and utilities, medical bills, holiday meals, and much more. 1125 Main Street, Suite 27, Buffalo NY 14209, call (888) 400-3892

Erie County - Social Services Department – Apply for government assistance, including Temporary Assistance; Adult & Child Protection; Food Stamps; Medicaid; Social Services;; HEAP; Emergency Assistance; and get Information & Referral to local charities and assistance programs. Rath Building, 158 Pearl Street, Buffalo New York 14202. Phone (716) 858-8000. Or read more New York public assistance.

Catholic Charities – Several resources are offered, including the Neighbor for Neighbor Heat Fund for National Fuel. This heating assistance program was created to provide financial assistance for energy bills and heating to low income, disabled, elderly, handicapped, or those Erie County NY with medical emergencies or hardships.

The Buffalo NY area Catholic Charities also administers various rent, housing and supportive services. These can include, but are not limited to, housing need assessments, identify new housing opportunities; utility and home repair advocacy; provide relocation assistance; application for entitlement program; landlord/tenant mediations; short term case management services; information and referral to community agencies and government programs. 128 Wilson Street, Buffalo New York 14212, phone (716) 896-6388. More details on Catholic Charities assistance programs in Buffalo.

Tonawanda Salvation Army – Offers the following to qualified people. Apply for emergency food assistance and vouchers. They also run the Neighbor 4 Neighbor utility assistance for seniors when funds are available. In addition, apply for rental assistance for Niagara and Erie County residents. 46 Broad Street, P.O. Box 191, Tonawanda NY 14151, (716) 693-3110





Help for heating expenses - When the cold and snow hits Erie County and western New York, many utility companies and the government offer funds for paying heating and gas bills. Money can also pay for the repairs of your furnace. Thousands of people receive assistance every year. Find help with paying heating bills in Buffalo.

Buffalo Home Energy Assistance Program – Call them to learn about or apply for emergency assistance for paying electric, gas, oil, heating bills etc. and even funds for some heating equipment repair. Low income families and individuals can apply for heating assistance. They also offer weatherization program. 478 Main Street, 1st Floor, Buffalo New York 14202, call (716) 858-7644.

Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority can help place people into low income and/or public housing. The agency can also issue section 8 housing vouchers. The program will pay a portion of your rent, and the tenant will need to pay the balance based on their income. The government organization focuses on addressing housing needs, including mortgage questions. 245 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo New York, 14222, call (716) 855-6779. Another agency to call for information on this resource is Rental Assistance Corporation of Buffalo (telephone (716) 882-0063).

PathStone Corporation supports eligible farm workers and possibly others who meet very low income levels. Assistance programs offered include the following. Rental assistance and support for first-time home buyers. The agency can coordinate minor home repairs. A food pantry and vouchers are offered too. Or sign up for programs such as English as a second language, adult basic education or get help in finding full-time employment. (716) 366-9015

Erie County transitional housing and shelters - Families facing eviction and the homeless can receive help from several non-profits and local housing programs. Services range from providing a place to stay for a night or two (emergency shelter) to longer term self-sufficiency and an apartment, which is a form of transitional housing. More on Erie County transitional housing programs.

Hispanics United of Buffalo offers language interpretation for government programs such as Medicaid, SSI etc., food pantry, advocacy and information regarding social services and public aid. Energy conservation is also offered.

Senior citizen services are available in Erie County too, including meals. Last, but not least, register for job readiness and/or life skills/prevention workshops or learn about money saving programs such as cash back rebate websites. Legal assistance and representation is offered to Hispanics. Or call them for information and referral, as the organization has extensive details on public and private resources. The non-profit is at 254 Virginia Street. Dial (716) 856-7110

Free help for the holidays - Everything from free meals to toys and Christmas gifts is provided to people in poverty, children and low income families. Churches and other non-profits in Erie County strive to provide the less fortunate with some type of Thanksgiving and Christmas assistance. Find free holiday and Christmas assistance in Erie County NY.

Housing Options Made Easy – You need to be referred by a mental health provider. Assistance available includes ongoing rent payment subsidies, bus passes, funds for security deposits & some transportation programs. (800) 421-1114

Kenmore-Tonawanda Office ((716) 839-4066) as well as a site in Amerhest (phone (716) 839-4066) offer intake and case management. The end result will hopefully be self-sufficiency which may include Emergency Relief Assistance and Advocacy, job placement, or maybe even heating bill assistance from programs such as Neighbor for Neighbor or food from WIC - Women, Children and Infants.

Older homes often use heating oil, propane, or similar fuel types. There are some companies as well as charities that offer free oil during the fall, winter, and spring. Quantities will be limited, however find how to get free heating oil.







Erie County SSVF - Supportive Services for Veterans is also for our region’s veterans. There are a number of components to this, include short term financial aid for security fees, rent, or utility costs. Loans may be used for longer term support. However the focus of SSVF is on employment assistance, legal and financial counseling, medication, and help in accessing public benefits from both New York and the federal government. Address of the site is 1280 Main Street, Buffalo NY 14209. Main phone - (716) 424-1892

Basic needs, including free clothes, furniture or back to school supplies, may be offered for free. There are a number of Buffalo NY as well as Erie County clothing closets, furniture banks and thrift stores. Several non-profit organizations will provide these items for free to qualified low income families. Some locations will sell goods to anyone, regardless of their income levels.

Some of what may be provided includes vouchers for free winter coats, school supplies, diapers, furniture, and other needed items. Many locations will  also offer special Christmas and holiday assistance programs to Buffalo area families and children or they offer free backpacks, supplies, and uniforms for school. Continue with free clothing closets, furniture and school supplies n Erie County.

Cash assistance in an emergency - Families who are faced with a crisis and who meet low income guidelines can contact the government run Social Service office for help. Financial assistance can be provided to pay for a wide variety of basic needs, such as rent, energy bills, food, and more. Case managers can also help people apply for public assistance in the region. Learn more Erie County emergency assistance.

Bridging Hearts Grant is for veterans, military members and their families. A grant can be issued to pay for expenses such as monthly rent, food, medical bills, and even Christmas gifts/meals. Any money is paid to the vendor, landlord or energy company. 2809 Wehrle Drive, Williamsville New York, 14221. Call (716) 630-5020

Free low income back to school supply programs help students of all grades, ages, ethnicities, and gender. Whether it is uniforms or clothes for boys or girls or teens, or free backpacks or notebooks or even Chromebooks, items are offered. More on free school supplies in Erie County NY.

Buffalo and Erie County Emergency Solutions Homeless Prevention – Families who are at risk of losing their homes or facing eviction from apartments may qualify for help. Some of the assistance provided includes short-term emergency rental assistance and money to pay rent arrearage. This is combined with mediation as well. In addition money can be used to help pay rent over the so called medium term.

Other housing assistance is available as part of Outreach. Grants for paying security deposits and utility deposits can be applied for, as well as current heating and utility bills. Motel or hotel vouchers and well as cash for moving and storage cost assistance round out the aid offered. Address is 525 Washington Street, Buffalo, NY 14203, phone (716) 856-4494 x317, or read Buffalo Housing Homeless Outreach.

Housing Resources of Western New York also operates in Erie County. They are a HUD approved Counseling Agency and can help both tenants and homeowners. Get information on foreclosure counseling or loan modifications. Other support can include eviction prevention and referrals to emergency rental assistance. The homeless can explore transitional housing, section 8 subsidized housing units, and both utility and security deposit assistance programs.

  • 33 Spruce Street, North Tonawanda, New York 14120-6305 (716) 213-2784
  • 1195 Main Street, Buffalo NY 14209 (716) 884-7791

Grants from Rapid Rehousing and also locally run Homeless Prevention Programs can be used to help income qualified tenants and families living in poverty that have a housing crisis. Federal money can be used to pay for utility costs, including heating or water bills, as well as rent or relocation. Ongoing case management is also given to clients of RRHPP. Read Erie County eviction assistance and rehousing.





Financial assistance for water bills - Low income people who live in Erie County and Buffalo New York have two main programs that can help with water bills. One is a payment plan, and the other is a resource offered by Neighborhood Legal Services. Read more and find details on the options available that help with water bills in Erie County.

Dozens of churches operate in Western NY and Erie County. They provide the poor and struggling with everything from food to clothes, emergency financial help, basic medical and more. Find information on assistance from churches in Erie County.

Emergency Assistance - ECDSS Social Services. The office is at 478 Main Street. They run the government programs, ranging from food assistance to furnace repairs, HEAP, and others. The intake number is (716) 858-6265, and all of these are for low income - working poor families.

Low income legal support - Volunteers and attorneys from firms in Buffalo and Erie County advise the less fortunate. Some seniors may qualify for help regardless of age. Receive help stopping evictions, applying for government benefits such as disability or HEAP, and more. Consumer debt matters can be addressed too. More on Erie County legal aid.

City Mission - This charity focuses on the very low income, homeless, and poor. The resources available in Buffalo are wide ranging, and include free food, shelter, and employment services. Other programs include free Christmas and Thanksgiving help, clothing and household goods from the Bargain Hunter Paradise thrift store, and transitional housing or information on low income apartments. More on Buffalo City Mission.

Low interest loans for expenses and bills

The Child & Family Services Ways to Work Loan Programs is an option that offers low interest loans to qualified individuals. Money can be used to pay for bills, household appliances, furniture, medical bills and other emergency needs. There are also loans for paying rent or a mortgage arrears, vehicle repair or purchase, security deposits, home repair, or even child care. People who are working at minimum part time or who may be going back to school are eligible to apply for the program. Click here to find other Salary Advice loan programs, or dial (716) 335-7400.

Other lenders, including non-profits as well as bank in Erie County like M&T, provide short to long term loan funds as well. Various low cost loans may be offered, including to the “:un-banked” as well as people with no or bad credit or a low income. The goal is to provide capital to lower income families both in Erie County as well as outside Western New York. Find bad credit loans for low income households.

Rent assistance

Is being offered as part of a federal government stimulus initiative that is called the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. It provides financial help and cash grants to families and individuals who are at risk of being evicted and finding themselves out on the streets. It can also help those who have already been made homeless by the recession, and maybe they have been evicted or maybe they lost their home to foreclosure.

The services offered as part of the program range from short-term rental assistance and housing relocation, to help with security deposits, utility deposits, and even utility and heating bills. Good news is the help is not just for residents of Buffalo, but government funds are given to Erie County as well.

The different agencies and charities distributing the funds include the American Red Cross, Neighborhood Legal Services ((716) 847-0650), Catholic Charities, Saving Grace ((716) 893-1840), Community Action Organization, Crisis Services, the Homeless Alliance and the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Center.

Belmont Housing Resources for WNY - This non-profit agency can provide information on rental assistance programs, and they also administer the Section 8 rental assistance program. (716) 884-7791

Matt Urban HOPE Center - People facing an eviction and at risk of losing their home or apartment, or those who are currently homeless, can contact this agency. Dial (716) 855-2124.

Contact the Community Action Organization of Erie County and they can also refer you to these agencies. Or find other Erie County and Buffalo rent assistance programs.

Erie County New York programs and agencies that cover the entire state

Get details on financial assistance programs and not-for profit agencies that provide rental assistance, housing, free foreclosure advice, heating bill assistance, and other aid to Buffalo NY and Erie County families.

Many national resources are also operating in Western New York. They can provide free  financial help, cash grants, free stuff, furniture and more. They include both charities and government groups. Find a list of free stuff for low income families.





Employment services

The Community Action Agency of Erie County also offers assistance with job search, job preparation, job referrals, job placement, resumes, and referrals to onsite services, CAO partner agencies, and other agencies and charities that are located throughout Erie County and Buffalo New York. Call CAO at 881-5150.

If you need help finding a new job, are under or unemployed, the Buffalo Urban League (716-854 -7625) can help you. The administer an Employee Transition Service that offers entry level employment opportunities, can provide job training and help to people who are new to the workforce or who have limited work experience or skills. But the program foes not end there. They will also assist individuals who are professionals who have been affected by layoffs in this economy, people who are seeking to upgrade their employment or gain new skills, and can also help skilled workers.

Home repairs and improvements

If you experience an emergency such as a broken furnace or heating unit, need a window or roof replacement, the city of Buffalo partners with West Side Neighborhood Housing Services to offer homeowners options and programs to resolve their crisis. Some the repairs and improvements that can be provided include defective heating system, repair or replacement of water heaters and furnaces, roof repair, replacement of water pipes, and much more. Call 716.877.3910 for housing assistance.

Mortgage counseling, foreclosure prevention, and debt reduction

The Urban League of Buffalo offers Erie County New York homeowners foreclosure and mortgage help. They have an on site Housing and Community Development Department that provides housing assistance. HUD approved counselors will work with the family to help them keep their home. In addition, the program also provides budget and credit counseling to get finances back on track. They also have a predatory lending assistance program. Call them at 854 -7625.

Another option is West Side Neighborhood Housing Services (716) 885-2344). They provide one on one counseling, mediation services, information and access to loan modifications, and a host of other foreclosure programs and solutions to mortgage defaults. Click here to learn more about additional government mortgage programs.

In addition to the rent programs mentioned above, Belmont Housing Resources for WNY also offers foreclosure assistance. The center is a HUD Certified Housing Counseling Agency that provides home ownership & rental counseling to Erie County and Buffalo residents; including pre-purchase, reverse mortgage, foreclosure advice and mortgage default counseling. Dial (716) 884-7791.

In addition to those three agencies listed above, several other non-profit credit and housing counseling organizations are located in the area. They may be able to provide income qualified consumers and homeowners with free or low cost debt reduction and mortgage assistance. Find information on credit counseling organizations in Erie County.

Medical care and health care clinics

Clinics and medical facilities that offer individuals care include the following. Often dental and regular medical services are arranged.

Community Health Center of Buffalo - Phone (716) 986-9199. This clinic offers complete primary medical, health and dental care for entire family. No one is refused due to their inability to pay for their medical or hospital bills. They offer services on a sliding fee, reduced C scale, there is also a $10.00 co-pay for services. In addition, all health insurance types are accepted. In addition, learn about New York medical debt collection laws.

ECMC Outpatient Clinic Services  - This facility offers care and the fees charged to patients will vary depending on service and the patients income. Both dental and medical care is offered. (716) 898-3152

Low income, the underinsured, adults, and children have other options for free health or dental care. Find information on dozens of other free community clinics in Erie County and Buffalo New York.







Food pantries and free grocery assistance programs

There are several food assistance programs and places to obtain free vouchers from in the Erie County and Buffalo New York area. Many also serve free hot meals year round and at the holidays. Or clients can get help from emergency food stamps and other USDA benefits. They include:

  • Antioch Baptist Church Food Pantry - (716) 895-0198
  • Buffalo Lutheran Food Pantry - (716) 892-7682
  • Calvary Missionary Baptist Church - (716) 895-3642
  • Delevan Community Food Pantry - (716) 492-1902
  • First Presbyterian Church - (716) 884-7250
  • Lackawanna Neighborhood Service Center CAO - (716) 825-2147

There are many other free food banks as well as soup kitchens in Erie County. Or click here to find information on dozens of other free food pantries in Erie County.

Pro-bono legal aid

Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc. - Volunteer attorneys offer free legal advice for civil issues. Get advice for all issues including, but not limited to, unemployment insurance benefits; Family Law (divorce, adoption, guardianship, standby guardianship, name change and non-parent custody petitions); foreclosures; consumer/bankruptcy; real property/small estate; evictions, and more. Click here for more free legal advice, or dial (716) 847-0662


By Jon McNamara

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