Research Topics

Buffalo Poverty Research Topics

As of January13, 2011

The Homeless Alliance of Western New York and the Partnership for the Public Good collect topics for use by local faculty and students interested in doing research that will help the community to better understand and alleviate poverty in the Buffalo region.  Listed with each topic is the person or group that suggested it, so that an interested scholar can contact that person or group directly to learn more.  Often the community group will have access to data, informants, or understandings that will aid the scholar in her work.  To suggest a topic, email Sam Magavern,   For existing research on Buffalo’s poverty, a directory of community-oriented scholars, and other resources, visit

County Poverty Programs Vulnerable to Budget Cuts

Cara Matteliano, Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo,

Analysis of Erie County budgets to identify vulnerable, non-mandated services that are vital to low-income populations (i.e., the 2010 cuts in child care benefits). Once programs are identified, additional research on funding for them and alternatives to them should be conducted.

Costs of Homelessness

Karen Carman, Matt Urban Center,

What is the cost of homelessness? Look at utilization rates of services across the spectrum for various segments of the homeless population (families, singles, chronic) and complete a cost-benefit analysis similar to the “Million Dollar Murray” story and Dennis Culhane’s work.

Unique Needs of Chronically Homeless Women

Karen Carman, Matt Urban Center,

Chronically Homeless Women: What are their unique needs versus those of men? How would the engagement approaches, service linkages, and housing programs differ from those models that are often designed around the needs of homeless men?

Homelessness Recidivism

Kristin Cipollone, UB Education doctoral student,

Assess recidivism across the homeless population. Which groups are most prone to recidivism? What are some potential explanations for this? What roles do housing programs and support services play in reducing recidivism? What are some effective models for reducing recidivism? If such programs exist here, what best practices can be gleaned from them?

Perceptions of Poverty and Homelessness

Kristin Cipollone, UB Education doctoral student,

Market” research to assess how the local community perceives homelessness and poverty—causes, solutions, etc. Use this research to inform community outreach and education efforts (how can advocates for poor and homeless persons use this information to shape their awareness-raising efforts and shape public opinion effectively?)

Demographic Profiles of Specific Buffalo Neighborhoods

Michael Tritto, Schiller Park Community Center,

To support the need for youth development programs and senior citizen case management, it would be helpful to be able to measure employment, educational attainment, home ownership, incidence of violent and property crime, car ownership per households within defined neighborhoods.

Difficulties of Car Sharing in Low-Income communities

Ari Sahagun, Buffalo Car Share,

  • Marketing and framing car sharing to historically underserved demographics
  • Pricing structures that might be more appropriate for low-income individuals
  • Effects of car sharing as transportation option

Mortality from Homelessness

Kathleen Heim, University at Buffalo,

Using data from local emergency rooms, learn what is the mortality rate either directly (i.e., weather exposure) or indirectly (i.e., chronic illness left unaddressed) related to homelessness.

Effectiveness of McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison Program

Irene Pijuan, Homeless Alliance of WNY,

Study of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison program. Many communities throughout the country have such programs set up (as mandated by legislation). How does the program work in Buffalo? How effective has it been in identifying homeless children and providing the required services? How can it be improved?

Best Practices for Kids Aging Out of Foster Care

Irene Pijuan, Homeless Alliance of WNY,

Effective programming for independent living—specifically for kids aging out of foster care. What are the best practice models? What kinds of supports are in place? How do such supports help to transition youth and with what success?

Importance of Case Management and Agency Partnership to Ending Homelessness

Christina Tello, Neighborhood Legal Services,

Compare recurrence of homelessness among those who work with an agency versus those who do not. If those who work with an agency have less probability of becoming homeless again or are homeless for less time, this may draw attention to importance of agency assistance—could help with funding and recruit employees.

Cost/Benefit Analysis of Homeless Youth in Safe Haven Programs vs. Juvenile Detention

Carol Halter, United Church Home Society,

We know that it is less costly to place youth in transitional programs than to leave them on their own to get into trouble and then fall into the juvenile justice system, but a cost benefit analysis to prove it would be helpful.

The Geography of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice

Joseph Butch, HUD,

GIS software can overlay geographic data with demographic data to identify patterns which indicate impediments to fair housing choice.  Use of analytical tools such as GIS combined with statistical expertise would provide greater detail, accuracy, and completeness to analysis of impediments (i.e., barriers to participation based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, familial status or disability in the sale, rental or financing of housing studies). There are many data-analytical projects involving geographic characterization of demographics of low-income and minority concentrations that would suit themselves to this kind of analysis in the housing market areas in upstate New York.

Barriers to Services for Recent Immigrants

William  O’Connell, HUD,

A study on the barriers to services for immigrants. Specifically, focus on accessibility of housing, jobs, and education for recent immigrants in Buffalo and Erie County.

Diversion from TANF and Safety Net Programs by Erie County

William  O’Connell, HUD,

A study of Erie County Social Services diversion techniques—specifically, an analysis of diversion rates for TANF and Safety Net (welfare) and how such decisions are made.

Right to Shelter in New York State

Penny Selmonsky, Neighborhood Legal Services,

Conduct a review and analysis of case law and statutory law to look into “the right to shelter” in New York State.

Best Practices in Services to Homeless Persons with Mental Illness

Penny Selmonsky, Neighborhood Legal Services,

Best practice models in homeless service provision, particularly for homeless persons with mental health complications. Included in this would be an analysis of the legal obligations to this population and suggestions for bridging the current gap.

Needs Assessment of Pet Owners Experiencing Poverty or Homelessness

Pamela Hylinger & Beth Shapiro, SPCA of Erie County,,

How do poverty and homelessness in pet owners affect pets? A needs assessment of struggling pet owners will help the SPCA to identify strategies and provide (new) services to animals in need and reduce the number of pets who enter shelters, keeping pets in their homes with their owners.

Healthcare for the Homeless

Homeless Alliance of WNY Staff,

Where do the homeless most commonly access healthcare? What are the possibilities for service provision (could healthcare be offered in soup kitchens, pantries, shelters, etc.?).  Assess the advantages/disadvantages of community-based health centers, focused on preventative medicine vs. centralized, hospital and emergency-based facilities.

Squatters and “Campers” in Buffalo

Homeless Alliance of WNY Staff,

We have a limited sense of the number of people squatting in abandoned buildings. In particular, an analysis of the fires/mortality rates in homes without working utilities would be useful. Also, it would be interesting to know how many homes in the area are without some/all utilities (heat, electricity, water) and determine which are more common to go with out and why.