Niagara Falls at the crossroads of two nations

Niagara Falls at the crossroads of two nations

Border communities like Niagara Falls are often the first place newcomers to America see, or the last place in the states they’ll visit before immigrating to Canada. Churches help ease those transitions.
Published: May 30, 2019 | Updated: May 20th, 2020 at 6:04 pm
The Potter’s House Christian Community Church in Niagara Falls works to help residents of this border community, as well as those who visit either as tourists or as migrants looking for a better life.
The Potter’s House Christian Community Church in Niagara Falls works to help residents of this border community, as well as those who visit either as tourists or as migrants looking for a better life.

Historic Niagara Falls has served as a crossroad for millions heading north to Canada or south to the U.S. ever since the Civil War.

In 2018 alone, more than 1.1 million travelers passed through Niagara Falls’ official ports of entry, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

A mural inside The Potter’s House Christian Community Church in Niagara Falls. The church has opened its doors for almost 100 years to people in need, church pastor Stephan Booze said.
A mural inside The Potter’s House Christian Community Church in Niagara Falls. The church has opened its doors for almost 100 years to people in need, church pastor Stephan Booze said.

Some of those travelers end up needing assistance. Some ask for asylum in the U.S. Others get in trouble for trying to smuggle contraband across the border. Others still are heading the other direction, trying to get to Canada to claim asylum, sometimes after long and dangerous journeys.

And Niagara Falls has plenty of problems of its own. Unemployment in the city of 50,000 residents is about 6.5 percent and consistently exceeds the U.S. average of 3.8 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Religious organizations in the area are trying to ramp up services to help those in need. The Potter’s House Christian Community Church in Niagara Falls, for instance, provides many services, including a youth ministry, a women and men’s home, a women’s prayer breakfast, and a men’s fellowship breakfast.

Potter’s House is also part of an international organization that aims to help immigrants relocate to different cities in a dozen countries through its local churches. Canada accepts about 300,000 immigrants a year, according to the government’s annual immigration report to Parliament, and some of those migrants pass through Niagara Falls on their way Canada.

The services the church offers are open to all, including travelers, said Stephan Booze, the senior pastor at the church. Other issues in the community include high drug rates, a growing influx of immigrants, refugees and detainees, Booze said.

The Potter’s House Church’s mission includes efforts to help anyone who needs assistance. Whether it be to help them find housing, a job, rehabilitation services from drugs or alcohol abuse, or to transition out of jail or detention, the church has opened its doors for almost 100 years to people from all walks of life.

“We have people,” Booze said, “that really need help.”

The Buffalo-Niagara-area crossings are the busiest in the state and are among the busiest of any ports of entry along the northern border. This graphic shows the total number of border entries at the seven busiest crossings in New York since 1996 using data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Use the slider bar in the upper right to isolate a more specific time period.

Avatar for Ashley Blanco

is a contributor for The NewsHouse

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Avatar for Ashley Blanco

is a contributor to The NewsHouse.