Today an article appeared on the front page of the Austin American Statesman entitled “Local United Way changing direction.” We were excited to see our new approach to community building get such attention. And I want to take this opportunity to expand upon some of the information from the article. I hope this brief overview gives you a clearer sense of what our new direction is, how it addresses the basic needs of our community, and helps close the growing “Opportunity Gap” between those who are getting ahead and those who are falling behind.
While it’s true that we are interested in creating sustainable, long-term change in the Central Texas community, I’d like to reiterate we are not pulling away from helping people in crisis. Rather we are working to invest in programs that stabilize families and individuals.
We are funding a number of basic needs services in our new approach, and are, in fact, expanding the spectrum of what constitutes “basic needs.”
We see basic needs as a piece of the overall puzzle. We want to (a) empower people with the tools and knowledge to reduce their reliance on basic needs services, and (b) help move people from basic needs services into self-sustaining environments through affordable housing, meal delivery, workforce development, etc.
Although we are in the middle of an open, volunteer-driven proposal (funding) process, in which a record number of organizations have applied for community dollars, I’d like to provide a few examples of basic needs services we expect to fund in the new model:
- Providing nutritious meals (food delivery, food pantries) and prescription assistance to vulnerable groups, especially homebound older adults and people with chronic disease.
- Affordable, safe, sustainable housing for those in need
- Housing maintenance for older adults to make sure they can stay at home and live in a safe, stable environment.
- Emergency financial assistance (utilities, rent, mortgage assistance, etc.) to prevent homelessness
- Workforce development to move people into stable, higher-paying jobs
- Childcare assistance—including improved childcare facilities and access to childcare for low-income populations
The very fact that there is an ever increasing demand on non-profit services demonstrates that, while we will continue to help partners address the symptoms of our community problems, that we need to add to our solutions and address the root causes too. To try a new approach. By tackling the underlying causes, stopping individuals and families from falling into the “safety net”, we hope over time to empower vulnerable citizens with the tools, knowledge and skills that can help them build their own lives out of poverty, out of needing the “safety net” in the first place.
Change is hard. We understand and acknowledge that. We believe our new approach and community-driven investments will help those in immediate need, and pay dividends in the long run for all in our community.
We welcome any comments you may have, to open a dialogue here and encourage one and all to help us and our partners tackle our community’s most pressing problems, to get involved for the greater good.
David W. Balch
President & Chief Professional Officer
United Way Capital Area