Buffalo woman shares survival story, living through Buffalo winter

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) –  Over the past five years leaders in Buffalo have made efforts to combat homelessness in our city.
In fact, earlier this month, Mayor Byron Brown was honored at the White House for his efforts to provide housing to homeless veterans.  But despite this, Buffalo’s homeless community still struggles.

Penny Setser says Buffalo is the one place in this country you don’t want to be homeless. As a woman, she calls having no place to stay this winter, a death sentence.
Now she’s speaking out on why the system here still has problems. “Its amazing what you can do when you’re in survival mode,” Setser said.

She admits she doesn’t have a clean past. “(I have been a force of destruction in my lifetime. But I don’t want to be a part of that destruction anymore,” she said.

She was a part of the city’s opioid epidemic, addicted to drugs. For a full year was alone and homeless here. She said, “The one time I committed a petty crime, I went to jail for thirty days. it was the best time of my life.”

For her, anything was better than being out in the streets. She said it’s particularly hard for women.  She said, “You can’t walk up to a womens facility, and say, “I need help.” I stood outside the door and cried, telling these people through an intercom that I was going to die if they didn’t let me in.”

Unless there is a Code Blue in effect, where temperatures are below 15 degrees, Setser said women can’t just walk into shelters. Setser says she needed paperwork from social services to even  get in the door.

She said, “There is a need for a facility an overnight facility whether you throw them down a cot or spray them down with Lysol, or whatever.”

For now, she’s on the other side. She says the help she got after winding up in the hospital, saved her life. That was her wake up call. Now she’s sober and living in her own apartment.

She said, “I just want my Grandma to be proud of me. But from here on out in my life, I want to earn respect and I want to help.”

Mayor Byron Brown said this winter the city will provide $55 thousands dollars to the Code Blue collaborative. The money will help serve seniors and the homeless population when temperatures drop to 15 degrees or below.

There are resources available for you:

Head to the Homeless Alliance of Western New York , Compass House, or the Buffalo City Mission 


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