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Partners in Purpose: Creating a 5-year plan to tackle poverty

United Way of Central Indiana has priority efforts focused on early education, economic mobility, housing security and basic needs

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United Way of Central Indiana recently unveiled its new five-year strategic plan, Partners in Purpose. It is aimed at focusing on the organization’s resources to support Central Indiana families experiencing financial instability.

The plan prioritizes areas in early childhood education, economic mobility, safe and affordable housing, and providing essential services to neighborhoods in need.

“Our goal is to create positive, substantial change in Central Indiana for individuals and families who need it most. Poverty is not determined by a singular issue, and it can impact families for generations,” said President and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana Fred Payne.

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“We know many of the ways to combat poverty, and we’re leaning into data and the ongoing work of our donors and community-based organizations to help us in our new approach.”

He said Partners in Purpose marks United Way’s evolution from a community chest to a community impact partner, and it sets the stage for making a measurable difference in the company’s seven-county service area.

According to the United for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report, the number of Central Indiana families living in or near poverty has risen by 11% since 2018, reaching over 240,000 families.

Poverty is not determined solely by lack of income.

For individuals and families, living in poverty can encompass daily stress, physical and emotional pain, illness, trauma and a lack of equal opportunity that cycles from one generation to the next.

Partners in Purpose

Over the past 18 months, United Way conducted extensive research, facilitated discussions and collected input from various stakeholders, including community partners, funders, experts, community-based organizations, grantees and peer organizations.

“To effectively reduce financially unstable households, we must concentrate our efforts and resources on addressing the key predictors of poverty,” said Payne. “Early care and learning, safe housing access for families and youth, earning and employment pathways, and basic needs for the most vulnerable communities.”

Based on this research, they will provide essential services to neighborhoods in need to tackle the basic needs aspect of the plan.

Basic needs services have been the foundation of United Way’s work for more than a century. Basic needs funding gives community organizations the ability to respond to Hoosiers in crisis and to those who count on life-saving assistance and the essentials to survive.

Families benefit from access to quality, affordable early care and education.

For parents and caregivers, access to affordable childcare is crucial to finding and maintaining employment or postsecondary education. For children, high-quality pre-k reaches them at a critical development stage and sets them up for future educational success.

In Central Indiana, poverty is close to inevitable for low-wage workers, especially those with children. Earnings have not kept pace with the cost of living, and many people face systemic inequities.

Hard work alone is not enough to lift a family out of poverty. By building on the successes of its family opportunity initiatives, United Way will invest in partners working alongside 10,000 households to increase earnings and enhance well-being.

Tackling poverty

Housing is one of the largest monthly expenses for families, and these costs have rapidly risen in recent years. Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, rent in Marion County has, on average, increased by more than 20% while wages have grown only by 4-5%.

Over 160,000 households in Central Indiana are “housing cost-burdened,” meaning that they spend greater than 30% of their family budget on housing-related expenses.

Evictions pose a risk to families, with loss of housing correlating to job loss, lower academic scores for children and long-term challenges of securing future housing.

United Way plans to build on the successes of their current initiatives by investing in partners working alongside 10,000 households to increase earnings and enhance their well-being.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at 317-607-5792 or by email jadej@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON

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