For those re-entering the Western New York community after being involved in the criminal justice system, it's not just the big things like finding housing or a job that are barriers to success.
Oftentimes, it's the little things — a phone to call a loved one to pick them up or the number to a food bank for their own groceries.
A new resource hub called the Service Link Stop, 120 W. Eagle Street provides help with both the big and little challenges.
While it celebrated its grand opening this past Tuesday, Nov. 17 in downtown Buffalo, the hub has been helping people since mid-September.
For one of the nearly 30 people who already walked through its front doors, that help came in the form of a tie.
“We had one individual who came through and he got his tie and he told us about his job interview a month later,” Ron Schoelerman, Erie County director of Intensive Adult Mental Health Services, said.
The facility was years in the making when the Erie County Department of Forensic Mental health began to see an increase in inmates with behavioral and mental health needs — a trend that is not unique to the city or the region.
More people with mental illness are incarcerated than receiving medical treatment in hospitals, according to a 2014 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center.
“The needs continue for these folks who have encountered criminal justice system involvement, very oftentimes with behavioral health and substance use issues,” Mark O’Brien, Erie County commissioner of Mental Health, said. “The more we can do to help them regain their footing, then the better it is for them, their families and the community.”
The top three needs people seek at the Service Link Stop are housing, employment and treatment, according to a report during the Erie County Opioid Task Force Meeting on Nov. 10.
Remodeling of the building started last year, but construction, bail reform in New York and the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays.
“With bail reform, with the pandemic, we’ve certainly seen a reduction of inmates in custody, but that does not eliminate the need,” he said.
Despite a significant drop in the Erie County inmate population due to those things, there’s been an increase in those with mental and behavioral health needs who are in custody, said Schoelerman.
What has changed is how to connect people who are most in need of help to supportive services.
About 50 different community agencies partner with the Service Link Stop with Spectrum Human Services and Back 2 Basic Ministries, a peer and greeting agency on site all days of operations.
Services from career development to housing to substance use treatment — addressing the myriad of barriers for those who are re-entering after being involved in the criminal justice system and hope to reduce recidivism rates.
“This is what we’ve always envisioned with the Service Link [Stop] — the sooner you can connect people with the resources, the sooner you can bring them stability, the less likely that they will be involved, possibly, in a criminal justice setting,” Schoelerman said.
While the Service Link Stop aims to help those involved in the criminal justice system, it is open to the public.
The Service Link Stop is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located at 120 W. Eagle Street in downtown Buffalo.
For more information, call 716-858-1757.
Below is a recent list of all agencies that provide services at the hub.
Back 2 Basics
Belmont Housing Resources for WNY
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Buffalo and Erie County Public Library
Buffalo City Mission
Buffalo Employment and Training Center
Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers
Buffalo Urban League
Center for Employment Opportunities
City of Buffalo
Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo
Community Health Center of Buffalo
Erie County Community College
Erie County Department of Social Services
Erie County District Attorney's Office
Erie County Mental Health
Erie County Probation
Erie County Sheriff's Office
Horizon Health Services
Houghton College--Hope House
It Takes a Village
Jewish Family Services
Justice Innovations Consulting
New York State Unified Court System-8th Judicial District
Save the Michaels
Spectrum Human Services
Spectrum Human Services-Erie County Task Force
United Health Care
WNY Housing Options