Progress to Zero -Update 3

Today, April 19, 2019 marks the celebration of both the first night of Passover and Good Friday.     Not coincidentally these holidays often coincide.  Each holiday is a bittersweet reflection of deliverance from despair.  Each holiday also, an opportunity to build community, to support each other as we reflect on how we have over come adversity in our own lives.

No matter your faith tradition, the story arc from despair to joy, from enslavement to self-determination, from sinner to neighbor is a common thread.  For those of us whose careers have led us to serve the homeless, people struggling with addiction, mental illness, poverty we see the living embodiment of this struggle every day.

As we enter this weekend of reflection, I challenge you to think of the 650+ folks we have helped house this year alone.   As we continue to work towards a system where there are zero chronically homeless people this is the data we must use to rewrite the narrative that people can’t get housed.  It is not correct to say there are people who cannot be housed.   People are getting housed and being successful staying housed.  We are housing people with addiction, mental illness, zero income, with lengthy criminal histories we are even housing people who are schizophrenic or sex offenders.

This week we have 12 names on our by-name list. 17 names are on our not-by- name list.  This list was once over 200 people.

As you celebrate this weekend, or simply enjoy the company of your loved ones, take time to reflect on the power you felt in your life when someone believed in you, believed that you could overcome adversity.  Think about the power of being in community, in relationship with others.  And on Monday, let us each come to work and believe that together we are a mighty force and together we can help our last 29 chronically homeless folks find housing.

 

  • Andrea Kurtz

Progress to Zero – Update 1

As many of you know, in 2005 our community committed to ending chronic homelessness.  This milestone is only a part of the larger vision our Continuum of Care (COC) has for homeless services to become a housing crisis response system that helps people facing a housing crisis stabilize their housing.   The proof point of ending chronic homelessness is only a stepping stone on this path.  One step we are imminently close to taking! When we made the commitment as a community to end chronic homelessness, there were over 200 folks in our community who were chronically homeless.    Today we have only 12!

 

We have come a long way as a community of practice serving people experiencing homelessness.  The changes we have made over the last 14 years to our system have been monumental…including the development of rapid re-housing, coordinated assessment, governance re-design,  improved partnerships with HAWS, the VA, DSS, WFUBMC, better data collection and improved use of data in decision making.  We have also strengthened our culture of partnership and collaboration including shelter/medical care partnerships at both Bethesda Center and Samaritan Ministries, the HAWS collaborative between Bethesda Center and HAWS, the sophisticated partnership between Cities with Dwellings and local faith communities to manage our winter over-flow and to support the development of supportive community as people transition into permanent housing.

 

This week, 8 of us attended the Built for Zero convening in Atlanta where we received training, guidance and support for innovative ways to better support you as we continue our progress towards Zero.  As we have over the past several years since joining BFZ, we will continue to share this knowledge through Action Camps, the operating cabinet, and other work groups and partnerships across our CoC.  A key concept of this work is continuous improvement.  A key concept of continuous improvement is to “test” or try something on a small scale before bringing a change to full scale, as a way to learn what works or doesn’t work to improve our ability to end homelessness. Through the methodology of Continuous Quality Improvement we have made changes to how we support people getting their disability verification, documenting their length of time homelessness, orientations, improved housing search and placement and many other areas of our system.

 

In January at our CoC retreat, we committed to ending chronic homelessness by June 30! When we hit this milestone, it will be because of  hard work,  dedication, and  compassion for serving our homeless neighbors.

I am committing in these last three months to this goal to sending out a weekly update celebrating the work we are doing as a CoC to end homelessness— all homelessness.

 

 

Andrea S. Kurtz

 

Progress to Zero – Continuum of Care Update – by Andrea Kurtz, JD Senior Director, Housing Strategies

At the root of all the work we do across the CoC is the goal of helping people who are homeless find a place to call home: one individual, one family at a time. As we have worked to align our programs and services across the CoC to this singular goal of housing the homeless we have gathered ample data and success stories demonstrating, that with the right supports anyone can be successful in permanent housing. This simple truth, that having a home, a place to set roots, to be who you is powerful. But as we inch closer to our goal of ending chronic homelessness, the refrain we hear most often is, there is not enough housing. The pressures on our rental housing market are so great, that some landlords are asking tenants to have 4x the monthly rent in income before they will consider renting to them; even if they come with a housing voucher covering the cost of rent.
Housing that is affordable, that meets fair market rent (FMR), is increasingly further out from the center of our community, compounding already challenging transportation issues. How are we to end chronic homelessness in this type of a housing market? The answer will be as it has always been, one individual, one family at a time.
One strategy for improving housing placement rates that has been discussed off and on in our community is shared housing. As with all strategies, there are pros and cons, and while it may not work for some, it may work for others. As no-one in our system has previously used this strategy regularly we are devoting part of the upcoming Action Camp on April 11th to exploring “Shared Housing.”
Our landlord engagement team is excited to welcome Karen Britton, our new Landlord Engagement Specialist with the Forsyth Rapid Re-Housing Collaborative. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a real estate professional and a deep passion for helping people find housing. She and Kristle will continue to build relationships with landlords and property managers across Forsyth County and to identify vacant units. They will be working very intensely over the next few months with the support of our coach from Built for Zero to try new strategies to encourage landlords to make units available to people transitioning out of homelessness.
Status update on the progress to Zero:
  • There are 13 chronically homeless folks on the By-name List.
  • 2 Chronically Homeless folks were housed this week! WOOHOO!
  • 10 folks from the BNL were matched to a supportive housing program.
Another key event this week, is the closing of the winter overflow shelters. 287 people were provided shelter this winter by City with Dwellings. Of those folks, 48 are now known to be permanently housed! They were housing using a combination of diversion, self-resolution, and a few were in supportive housing programs. 12 folks were diverted at the shelter door back to friends/family and 37 folks came to the shelter, didn’t stay at overflow, and never showed up in any other shelter this winter.

Media Advisory- Poverty Thought Force

MEDIA ADVISORY
 
Mayor Allen Joines will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Friday, March 15, to announce the formation of a follow-up organization that will carry on the work of the Poverty Thought Force, and introduce its leaders. Speakers will include Joines, N.C. Rep. Derwin L. Montgomery and representatives from sponsoring organizations. The news conference will be held in the City Hall Council Chamber, 101 N. Main St., Winston-Salem.
 
Joines, along with Montgomery and Rogan Kersh, the provost of Wake Forest University, announced the formation of the Poverty Thought Force in October 2015 and asked its 22 members to find local solutions for reducing poverty that would be both impactful and feasible. The thought force members delivered their final report in February 2017, which included 56 recommendations. The final report is posted at PovertyThoughtForce.com.

Press Release: Working Families Could Overlook Valuable Tax Credits

Free Tax Assistance Helps Winston-Salem Residents Claim Their Full Refunds

 

Winston-Salem workers could overlook important federal tax benefits because they simply don’t know about them. They could miss out on an extra income boost.

 

“The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) can make a real difference for workers who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Shirley Abdullah, Program Manager at Experiment in Self-Reliance. Experiment in Self-Reliance is offering free tax preparation services to working families at convenient locations throughout Winston-Salem. Individuals can get free help determining their EITC and CTC eligibility and claiming the credits.

 

Experiment in Self-Reliance is raising awareness of these services by hosting EITC Awareness Day on January 25, 2019 from 11:30am through 1:00pm at 3480 Dominion Street.

 

The EITC is a refundable tax credit available to qualifying lower-wage workers and their families. Workers earning less than about $50,000 from wages, self-employment, or farming in 2018 could qualify. Many people will qualify for the first time this year due to changes in their income, their marital status, or parental status, according to the IRS. The IRS estimates that four out of five eligible workers currently claim their EITC.

 

“We want to raise the number to five out of five,” Shirley Abdullah said. “Thanks to our trained and certified volunteer work force, we plan on assisting more than 5,000 taxpayers this year.”

 

The Child Tax Credit is available to workers who earn more than $2,500 in 2018. A qualifying child for the CTC must be under age 17.

 

A family’s tax refund also offers a chance to put some money into savings. To help families looking to save their tax refund for a rainy day, Experiment in Self-Reliance will refer interested taxpayers to asset-building programs that will help them well into the future. To have their taxes prepared, residents should bring income documents from all jobs worked throughout the year as well as their social security number, and a valid photo ID.

 

The EITC is one of the nation’s largest and most effective anti-poverty programs. In 2016, the EITC lifted an estimated 5.8 million people out of poverty, more than half of them children.

 

Experiment in Self-Reliance will run 10 tax sites throughout Winston-Salem. The tax sites will be open from January 22, 2019 to April 15, 2019. ESR is a United Way of Forsyth County Partner Agency.

 

For more information, call (336) 722-9400 or visit  www.eisr.org.

                                                                        Media Contact: Victoria von Dohlen

                                                                                              Number: 336-722-9400 ext. 124

                                                                                                                                Email: victoria.vondohlen@eisr.org

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ESR: Empowering Strength & Resilience

To Heal Divisions in This Country, We Need to Redefine Success

Nonprofits — along with many business and political leaders — have spent the past few years trying to heal the political, social, and economic divisions that were made more visible to all after the 2016 election.

Yet today people remain frustrated, marginalized, and worse off. The third federal government shutdown in a year and the roller-coaster stock market increased the need for nonprofits, in particular, to take a leadership role in reshaping how America works.

While many nonprofit, business, and political leaders are holding cross-cultural and community conversations to discuss what communities need, others continue to successfully exploit people’s fears for their own purposes.

One reason for the success of the latter group is the pocketbook concerns facing many American households. While U.S. gross domestic product is growing and unemployment is low, a lingering dissatisfaction reigns in many middle- and lower-income homes. At its heart, much of this discontent stems from people’s anxieties about the future of work and society.

I grew up in northwest Indiana in the 1960s and ’70s, when families could make a good living in local steel plants, oil refineries, and factories. Employees made a respectable, steady salary and believed that if they worked hard, they could provide for their families and find opportunities to advance.

Biggest Income Gap in Nearly a Century

That’s less and less the case. In the United States, the income gap is the largest since the 1920s, just before the Great Depression. Wages are stagnant, and we’re less economically mobile. Today, millennials have just a 50-50 chance of earning more than their parents did. In the 1940s, almost everyone was better off than the previous generation.

Reports about the future of work intensify concerns about jobs and mobility. While technology can create greater efficiencies, the World Economic Forum’s recently published “Future of Jobs” report says that in the next four years more than 75 million jobs may be lost as companies shift to greater automation. Today, machines or algorithms account for 29 percent of the total task hours worked in major industries. By 2022, they will handle 42 percent.

Where do people fit in as the world of work continues to change? It’s not simply a question of money but also dignity. Those Indiana steel workers possessed a strong sense of self-worth. They found purpose in what they did and believed they were powering their communities. With their job and personal security, they drove out bigots and fear-mongers who tried to sow racial and ethnic division. Today, we’re seeing a rise in ethno-nationalism and hate crimes. What will happen when more people lose work and the dignity it brings?

Solutions for All

To tackle these concerns, our society needs to redefine success. Instead of zeroing in on GDP growth rates or stock-market indexes alone, let’s focus on income inequality, access to good health care, and economic mobility. Let’s examine our education and training systems to make sure we are preparing young people — and all people — for the future of work. Let’s also not confine ourselves to standard thinking if new ideas and programs show promise, such as  advanced vocational training, guaranteed basic incomes, or opportunity zones – which were recently created to add incentives for private investment in economically distressed areas.

We must develop solutions that give all individuals greater opportunity, purpose, and self-worth. Critical to this effort will be a new success index that focuses on more than just macro-economic growth. It will weigh broad-based income distribution, personal economic and social mobility, and people’s sense of personal security and hope. Let’s call it the “Personal Prosperity and Satisfaction Index.” The Alice Projectwhich local United Ways use to find community data to address their most pressing social issues, can serve as one example.

A “we” culture once dominated U.S. society. Today, we have sunk into an “I” culture, placing too much value on what we earn or where we vacation –— and not whether more of us are happy, safe and prospering in strong communities. To defeat hate and build stronger communities, we must put people first. The dignity of work and equity must take top priority. And nonprofits must lead the way in restoring community connections by listening to people’s needs and pushing forward the best ideas.

It will take more than one election, one action, or one moment to solve this challenge. Solutions will come from a concerted and sustained effort to help more people succeed and an embrace of a new common good prepared to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

Brian Gallagher is CEO of United Way Worldwide.

Yesterday’s Progress Should Inspire Today’s Work

There is a lot of troubling news in the world today. Terrorism, inequality and distrust are just a few that come to mind. But when you dig further, you also see encouraging signs.

I recently came across a blog from Ben Carlson on his site, A Wealth of Common Sense. Ben and I share a similar perspective, and his blog highlights many good examples that remind us how far we’ve come.

For example:

  • 200 years ago, 85% of the world population lived in extreme poverty. 20 years ago, it was 29%. Today, only 9% live in extreme poverty.
  • The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51.
  • The U.S. high school graduation rate was just 9% in 1910. It jumped to 52% by 1940 and 83% today.

If these figures blow your mind, I’m not surprised. These examples don’t fit into the narrative broadcast by those who believe the world is spiraling out of control.

Of course, there is a lot of truth to concerns about growing inequality, our readiness for the jobs of the future, and the increasing failures of government – particularly at the national level. As a result, optimism and trust are declining in many parts of the world.

Surveys today typically find that only a small fraction of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing. Yet more than 70 percent trusted their local government as of a couple years ago.

These numbers make me optimistic, because they present an opportunity for a bottom-up, community-based approach to improve our society.

It’s an approach where people stop shouting past one another and instead listen and attend town council meetings to discuss improving schools and public safety.

It’s an approach where people connect and find common ground that leads to real, scalable impact.

And it’s an approach where our newfound trust and progress creates opportunities for change at higher levels of society, including the national level.

If that sounds a lot like United Way’s model, that’s because it is. We’ve been bringing people together in communities around the world for more than a century. Today’s environment, where trust in local organizations is greater than in national institutions, offers a critical moment to make an impact.

There is still a lot of work to do. The richest one percent of the world controls half its wealth. American millennials today are far less likely than previous generations to out-earn their parents. And our education systems continue to leave too many young people behind.

But it’s graduation season. A time to believe in what we can achieve, both individually and together. So let me end with these reminders:

Let’s continue to believe in the power of communities and the progress we’re making.

Let’s continue to understand the work left to do on behalf of people and communities.

And let’s remain optimistic that people can – and will continue to – come together to change the world.

Four Ways You can Lift People Out of Poverty

Childhood malnutrition. Illiteracy. Low-wage career paths. These are just a few of the outcomes families face due to chronic unemployment or underemployment. Choosing between putting food on the table, purchasing medication or buying school supplies is a daily financial dilemma for many parents, one that is avoidable with the right support system in place. Read more here .

 

 

United Way of Forsyth County’s Back to School Supply Event Provides Students at Kimberley Park 330 Backpacks

Winston-Salem, NC – September 13, 2017 – United Way worked with several non-profits in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County community to help students kick off the 2017-2018 school year as prepared as possible.

Currently there are approximately 54,762 students enrolled in WSFC Schools and 57% of those students are free/reduced lunch recipients.

United Way Forsyth County Director of Engagement, Amanda Rosemann notes, “For many parents, purchasing school supplies is a daunting task especially when you’re struggling to find money to pay for a meal. We want to thank the entire community for helping us in collecting much needed school supplies that will give students a good start to the school year and ease some of the financial burden parents are facing”.

United Way Forsyth County began collecting school supplies starting August 7th and was able to provide backpacks and supplies to students at Kimberley Park Elementary School. 313 backpacks were donated by Weston and Associates and United Way Staff donated 200 3-ring binders, hundreds of glue sticks and folders. Paper, pencils, erasers, crayons and composition books were collected from the community.

The Garage, owned and operated by Tucker Tharpe, held a fundraiser that collected supplies and over $800.00 to be used for needs throughout the school year.  Tharpe said, “This was a great cause and a great way for us to support the community in which we live”.

Dr. Jon Epstein, one of the performers noted, “This was a wonderful opportunity for the music community of Winston Salem to come together in support of school children. As an educator, I know first-hand how difficult it can be for students to simply have the basics to succeed in school – the WSFC community and United Way will make a difference in hundreds of school children’s lives”.

Kimberley Park Elementary was founded by John W. Paisley and Albert H. Anderson and was constructed and officially opened in 1925. After the school faced adversity by being burned down, it was reconstructed in the 1960’s.

# # #

 

United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.

Press Release: Press Release United Way Forsyth County Kicks Off School Supplies Collection Event

United Way is partnering with several non-profits in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County community to help students kick off the 2017-2018 school year as prepared as possible.

Currently there are approximately 54,762 students enrolled in WSFC Schools and 57% of those students are free/reduced lunch recipients.

United Way Forsyth County Director of Engagement, Amanda Rosemann notes, “For many parents, purchasing school supplies is a daunting task especially when you’re struggling to find money to pay for a meal. We’re hoping that by collecting much needed school supplies, we can give our students a good start to the school year and ease some of the financial burden parents are facing”.

United Way Forsyth County will be collecting school supplies starting August 7th-14th. Items will be distributed to Philo-Hill, Ashley, Kimberly Park, Easton, North Hills, Middle Fork the week of August 14th and counselors will distribute items to students at Open House and the first day of school. The community is invited to participate and items may be dropped off at the United Way office at 301 N. Main Street, Suite 1700 – Winston Salem, NC 27101.

UWFC is working to provide 1 backpack with each of the following school supplies for as many students as possible. Below is the student breakdown for each school, along with a desired school supply list:

  • 1 box of washable markers OR 1 pack of colored pencils
  • 4 dry erase markers
  • 4 highlighters (different colors)
  • 2 packs of pencils
  • 1 hand-held pencil sharpener
  • 1 pack of pens (blue or black, not red)
  • 1 pencil pouch with zipper
  • 10 glue sticks
  • 6 Wide-ruled composition books
  • 6 Solid-colored pocket folders
  • 4 3-ring binders
  • 3 packs loose leaf paper
  • 1 pack graph paper
  • 1 pack 3×5 index cards
  • 1 set ear buds
  • 2 boxes of tissues
  • 1 hand sanitizer                                                                     # # #

 

 

United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.