United Way program used for case study

Staff Reports

A United Way program that helps lift Bartholomew County residents into self-sufficiency is being used as a case study for a national organization that studies and disrupts poverty on a systems-wide level.

United Way of Bartholomew County’s Avenues to Opportunity program is being featured as a case study for Economic Mobility Pathways. What is known by the acronym EMPath is a Boston-based nonprofit that seeks to move people out of poverty and into financial stability by working with nonprofit agencies in communities across the United States.

The Avenues to Opportunity program seeks to holistically lift people into financial stability by utilizing coaches who work with clients one on one to remove barriers to self-sufficiency.

For example, the 15 to 20 coaches help people find jobs, make budgets and find affordable housing and transportation that fit their needs.

A large portion of the program centers on United Way’s partnership with local agencies who offer support in their services. Those agencies include the Columbus Housing Authority, Human Services, Inc., Lincoln Central Neighborhood Family Center, Love Chapel, Sans Souci, Su Casa, Thrive Alliance, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services and LifeDesigns.

“UWBC sits at the nexus of a community of support, comprised of local community partners, that offers a number of empowering services such as economic mobility-informed counseling, employment opportunities, education resources, childcare, and much more,” according to the case study.

“Part of United Way’s mission is to ensure everyone in our community is financially stable and the Avenues to Opportunity program is one of the ways we work for that vision,” said Mark Stewart, president of United Way of Bartholomew County. “We have a robust partnership with nonprofit agencies in our community that allows us to see and address needs at a community level.”

About 150 Bartholomew County residents are currently in the program, with 500 getting help since the program’s 2017 inception. United Way partnered with coaches and local agencies to build and implement the program after local data showed that a third of Bartholomew County residents struggled to meet their basic needs. Sixty-two percent of those in the program increased their income in their first year in Avenues to Opportunity.

Part of United Way’s mission and belief is that when everyone has access to basic needs and builds a life on financial stability, everyone benefits with better outcomes for the entire community.

“Implementing this at the community level takes time and effort, but poverty is too big and complex of an issue to solve without everyone being a part of the solution,” said Cheri Stone, United Way’s community impact director. “It was wonderful to see the participants, who have been working with the Bridge for a significant amount of time and have a certain level of stability, manage a crisis (such as the pandemic).”