Let’s talk about breaking the cycle of childhood poverty – in East Multnomah County!
As we’ve started to launch our new focus on breaking the cycle of poverty for kids and their families in our region, we know we can’t do it alone. We all have to work together – and part of that means listening to people in our community. So we are holding Town Halls in each of the four counties to have open conversations and learn from each other. Our most recent was in East Multnomah County and we want to share some of the questions from the audience along with our answers.
Much of what I heard in UWCW’s presentation reminds me of the African immigrant community. According to the Coalition of Communities of Color’s report on the African immigrant community in Multnomah County, this community scores at or near the bottom on nearly every indicator of quality of life.
This is true and example like this are why we’re interested in looking at target populations that are disproportionately affected by poverty, based on their race, language, immigrant/refugee status, etc. It does have to be a balance because at the same time, we want to focus across our four-county region. We need to think about how to build a portfolio that incorporates both our target populations, and also a wide swath of the region we serve.
Eight years ago, United Way took on the issue of homelessness. They said, “We’re going to end homelessness in 10 years.” What is United Way doing around homelessness now? Give me confidence that you’ll follow through with childhood poverty.
We are definitely making a long-term commitment to the issue of childhood poverty. With regard to homelessness, that was actually a ten-year plan that was developed by the Oregon state governor’s office. We were a partner on the project, but not the primary driver. Housing is definitely something we’ve continued to invest in, especially short-term rental assistance, and we’ll continue to do so. That’s most certainly related to the conversation about childhood poverty.
Why invest so much in one community with your Community Transformation strategy?
We are looking for proof points on change in childhood poverty. We won’t be able to break the cycle of childhood poverty in our whole region in three to five years, but by investing in a collaborative that’s ready to move and knows what they want to do, we can see significant change in a single community.
The Community Transformation strategy is where we can make a deeper, longer-term investment. This strategy is intentionally balanced with our other two strategies, Safety Net and Community Strengthening, which provide short-term and middle-term change.
How is your strategy around funding direct service going to change under the Safety Net strategy?
Safety Net provides direct and immediate service to families in crisis. Also, under our Community Strengthening Strategy, most of the organizations we will fund will be service organizations. Our funds will support the progress they’re making, and we’ll also be able to tie our funding to the metrics that they are recording and showing progress on. This funding won’t go to a specific program, but to the organization’s overall operations. We want to fund what you’re already doing well as an organization.
There’s a lot of work going on in our region focusing on childhood poverty. The question for United Way is, “how do we ramp up and coordinate all of these efforts?”
That will happen through:
- Leveraging other resources than funding
- Accountability—how we’re measuring progress
- Align around childhood poverty while respecting other organizations’ existing work and priorities
We’re lucky that we have a unique position, connected to businesses, nonprofits, philanthropists and more, which allow us to convene efforts around breaking the cycle of childhood poverty.