United Way of Pierce County is pleased to announce that Sound Outreach and Goodwill have been selected as partners to help low-income families through United Way’s first two Center for Strong Families, slated to open later this summer. The Centers will help families work toward financial stability and are vital to United Way’s 10-year goal of breaking the cycle of poverty. Funding for this work has been provided in part by a recent grant from State Farm to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), $200,000 of which will support efforts in Tacoma. Additional funding has also been provided by City of Tacoma, CHI Franciscan Health, MultiCare Health System, Washington State Employees Credit Union and Commencement Bank.
The Centers will serve families in their neighborhoods, many who are living in poverty and those who are classified as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) or living just above the poverty line. United Way of Pierce County’s ALICE research revealed earlier this year that in addition to the 12 percent of families living in poverty, there is another 22 percent who live above the federal poverty level and are employed but struggle to provide their families with basic needs such as food and shelter. The Centers focus on helping people change their financial behavior in a way that encourages them to make a long-term commitment to increasing monthly net income, building credit, and acquiring assets or “Earn It, Keep It, and Grow It”.
Based on the Center for Working Families model developed by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and adapted by LISC, there is a growing national network that includes nearly 80 Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) across the country. All include local community organizations that are trusted, known for their history of providing quality services, and convenient to where people live and seek out services. United Way is excited to add to this network with the two new centers in Tacoma.
Through extensive research, the Annie E. Casey Foundation found early on that the more that the services were bundled, the greater the chance for an individual to become financially stable. Because this is a relationship based model, results are based on two- to three-year relationship with the clients. While the return on investment varies, most Centers see a significant return on investment over a 36-month period (sometimes less). The initial research showed a 400 percent ROI over that timeframe.
“We don’t just want to help people get on their feet, we want to help them stay on their feet,” said United Way of Pierce County President and CEO Dona Ponepinto. “Connecting them to services is important but making sure they have job skills and financial coaching to keep them from relying on those services is critical. By bringing together trusted community partners to apply an integrated service delivery approach in the neighborhoods where these families live, we are not just strengthening the family, we are strengthening the system serving them as well.”
The Center for Strong Families will join FOCs nationwide in providing clients with an “integrated” set of three core services: employment and career planning assistance; financial education and coaching; and access to income supports. These core services are provided to clients in a bundled fashion in order to reinforce one another and to provide a multi-faceted approach to income and wealth building. The services are also provided to each family over an extended period of time, potentially two to three years.
Sound Outreach will serve as the lead organization for a Center that will incorporate multiple partners in the Hilltop area. Other providers include Bates Technical College, Tacoma Urban League, Tacoma Housing Authority, and Northwest Leadership Foundation. “We’re interested in figuring out how to keep people in their neighborhood, but not by keeping the cost of living down. We want to see household incomes rise,” explained South Outreach Executive Director Jeff Klein.
Goodwill will lead the Milgard Work Opportunity Center and serve as a single provider. “With the financial stress on our area families it is critical that our programs offer additional skills to build and maintain solid family foundations,” said Terry Hayes, President and CEO of Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region.
United Way of Pierce County is creating a network of organizations to learn from each other and continue to improve how we deliver services for families in Pierce County. This initial network will serve as a launch pad for other organizations working to implement the model. United Way will provide funding as well as infrastructure, training, technical assistance, and advocacy support. In addition, one of the most unique elements of this model is the use of common metrics to gauge the improvement of the families being served.
To learn more about the Centers for Strong Families visit: http://www.uwpc.org/center-strong-families