Mary Black Foundation Grantee Spotlight: United Way of the Piedmont
This week’s blog is written by Hannah Jarrett, Director of Financial Stability Strategy, United Way of the Piedmont
More than 20,400 Spartanburg County families are living below the self-sufficient level, meaning they are struggling or unable to afford basic needs like food, housing, clothing, transportation, health care, and and childcare. This represents 26% of all the families in the County. More than half of these families include an adult who is employed; however, while their income amount may disqualify them for public assistance, it doesn’t cover all their family’s expenses. COVID-19 has only deepened and increased the needs of families in our community.
United Way’s Goal
United Way’s bold goal for the community is to decrease the number of people living below self-sufficiency by 10% by 2030. One of the key interventions we’ve implemented to help our community achieve this goal is the Community Resource Coordinator (CRC) program. CRCs are boots-on-the-ground case managers who help families find longer-term solutions to stability, such as affordable housing, reliable transportation, workforce development opportunities, and financial literacy. CRCs are champions, cheerleaders, and flashlights to shine the way as families navigate situations that have developed over generations.
Currently, United Way of the Piedmont employs four CRCs who are housed at various organizations, including nonprofits and businesses. For example, the Workplace CRC is embedded within workplaces to provide employees with financial coaching and connect them to resources related to housing, transportation, education, and more. Additionally, UWP employs a Community Outreach Advocate in the Highland Neighborhood to work directly with residents by providing them with resources and engaging them in community-wide discussions.
Since April 2020, CRCs have helped over 600 families maintain or increase their stability by connecting them to resources, providing financial assistance to overcome unexpected crisis, and helping identify and achieve goals. Over 500 of these families experienced financial hardship due to COVD-19. The majority were stable at the beginning of 2020, with almost 90% never needing assistance before or not needing assistance in over a year. Through United Way’s United for All fund, CRCs have provided over $400,000 in assistance to help these families with rent, mortgage, utilities, and other basic need expenses.
Jennifer is one of people who has been served by a CRC. Jennifer is a breast cancer survivor and mother to five. Before the pandemic, she felt secure; but when schools and childcare centers closed because of the virus, Jennifer found herself unable to work. As time went on, it became clear she needed to find a new place for her family to live. When forced to move, she and her children first took refuge in her car. Jennifer called 2-1-1 to seek assistance, and she was connected to a CRC who helped her find a new home. United for All funds covered the initial expenses to move in and assisted with furniture and other supplies.
“I’m so grateful.” said Jennifer. “My children are so happy and excited – they still can’t believe it. They can enjoy being themselves. Where we live now is so much better than where we lived before.”
Pandemic or not, the CRCs work to create opportunities for every member of our community to thrive.