Great Things Happening on the St. Matthew’s Block: Part II

This is the second part of a two part series

The halls of St. Matthew’s School were once filled with the
sounds of students rushing to their classes, but now the building serves as a
temporary home for refugees awaiting a new life. Vive La Casa (50 Wyoming
Avenue) is housed in the former school building for the St. Matthew’s parish
and has been active there for nearly 20 years.

Vive La Casa is a non-profit organization and the largest
refugee shelter in the country. Refugees come from over 100 different countries
and Vive has served over 80,000 refugees seeking asylum in Canada and the
United States for the last 28 years. The majority of refugees end up in Canada
because the process is much quicker than the United States.

The organization offers legal assistance, housing, meals,
and medical assistance to all those who come through their doors. Sister Louise
Alff led me on a tour of the building which is over 100 years old which has tin
ceilings and hardwood floors in practically every room. However, due to the
extensive use of the building it will be in need of rehabilitation work in the

Although there are many different languages spoken, food is
the great equalizer. Refugees work to prepare meals in the kitchen and at times
there is dead silence because of the language barrier, but they are able to
communicate through food. The organization is also very sensitive to a variety
of different religions, offering a room where all can pray together to whatever
god(s) they believe in.

Similarly to the Altamont program just next door, the
decision to locate to the former school building was due to the price and
access to public transportation. The proximity to Canada was also a big factor
in the purchase. Over 80% of the organization’s funding come from private
donors and religious organizations which keeps Vive’s vision alive.

For more photos of Vive La Casa and the St. Matthew’s Campus check out my Flickr page, Views of Buffalo


^ Prayer room at Vive La Casa which respects all religions


^ Refugees working in the kitchen together

About the author  ⁄ diddlebock


we have donated many yards of fabric and clothing to this agency and the Clements where overwhelmingly thankful for everything. Many of them left their country for the fear of their lives with only the cloths on their backs. A very worthy and notable cause and it is the largest of its kind in the US.


Here's something about economics and growth. Immigration for every country is ... the best way to grow your economy. This is factual. New people bring new ideas and they are more motivated than those that have been around for ...too many years. I only have to look at my son who scoffs at taking minimum wage jobs as though they are...beneath him. Sure they bring their problems, but an expanding base of immigrants made this country creative and wealthy. Simple procreation does not do that as evidenced by India and China.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

This is the same tired argument used against immigrants since the earliest days of our country. This city was built by immigrants and continues to benefit from the contributions of the many different people that call Buffalo home. Unless you are a Native American you are an immigrant and should welcome the newcomers, not try and close the door on them.


There are immigrants who came to this country in the 1890s, in the 1920s and the 1960s who still havent produced a college graduate or been able to start a small business.

Kids are dropping out of failed public schools in the inner city, particularly in minority neighborhoods.

How about fixing problems within our own who cant seem to find a way to survive with a greater sense of urgency and priority before we invite the rest of the world to come here so we can fix them


It's a shame we don't have a centralized business program for refugees. Having business mentors and working with banks.

I think it could spark more formal ethnic communities within the city, such as a Karen Town, or others. It could be a way of revitalizing neighborhood commercial districts more directly and effectively.

Places like Vive La Casa could be a contributor to this kind of business improvement district program.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Agree, My neighborhod (Black Rock) continues to attract refugees as it has for almost 200 years now and they continue to be responsible for much of the small business activity in the area.


great....refugees bring new culture, ideas and business..

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