United Way Investing $50 Million to Help Stabilize Families and Individuals

Monday, April 11, 2016

Poverty in the Twin Cities region remains at staggering levels as more than 730,000 continue to struggle daily with challenges of housing stability, food security – having to use a foodshelf – or maintaining optimal health. And Greater Twin Cities United Way, in addressing the mounting need, is pouring $50 million through its Strengthening the Safety Net grants into the community. The funding, which goes into effect July 1, 2016, will bolster area nonprofits to continue providing vital resources thereby empowering residents to achieve stability and self-sufficiency. 

Close to 100 new and established United Way agency partners will receive a total of $16.6 million annually over the next three years. Roughly 20 percent of the new infusion of funds, include capacity building grants, for what the nonprofit refers to as “Culturally Specific Organizations” or CSOs. CSOs are smaller organizations led and staffed by persons of color and primarily serve communities of color. This is a critical component of United Way’s strategy to address the region’s persistent racial inequities in education and employment. State demographers estimate that 17 percent of Minnesotans are people of color and that number is expected to reach nearly 30 percent by 2040. United Way’s leadership say they’re committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to education, jobs, and basic needs.

The Safety Net support will benefit individuals and families still struggling with what United Way refers to as “the long arm of the recession.” The organization, identified as the state’s largest non-governmental social services funder, adheres to high standards in program investments. “We held listening sessions and collaborated to design with the community where to best direct resources that create the best opportunities,” says United Way President and CEO Sarah Caruso. She continues, “Poverty doesn’t reside only in urban areas but is rapidly spreading into the suburbs, which signifies Safety Net resources are even more crucial.” 

The Safety Net targets six key areas: optimal health, stable housing, food security (aiding the hungry); independence for seniors and people with disabilities; safety from family violence; and legal services.  

Three examples of the breadth and scope of programs receiving funding are:

Ujamaa Place, an organization that empowers African American men ages 18-30 to become productive members of their families and communities through education and skills training. “Young African American men often become part of the ‘lost generation’ who either die at a young age or are incarcerated for most of their lives,” said Otis Zanders, president and CEO, Ujamaa Place. “Receiving this funding will allow us to reverse this trend by reaching even more young African American men and helping them access stable housing, learn new skills and secure a job."

International Institute of Minnesota, a health care assistance provider to New Americans which includes helping them gain health insurance, connect to a health care home and identify additional health care resources. “New Americans trust our organization to help them navigate the health care system,” said Jane Graupman, executive director, International Institute of Minnesota. “We help New Americans start their new life strong and prepared to succeed, and this makes our communities more robust than ever.”

And Better Futures Minnesota, a social change enterprise that is ‘bigger and more ambitious than a program’ for men who were formerly incarcerated. “By setting high expectations and providing direct access to resources essential for personal transformation—housing, behavioral health and primary health care, employment, and community re-engagement— Better Futures participants are offered the opportunity to become contributing and productive members of society,” says Dr. Thomas Adams, president and CEO of BFM.

For a complete list of the organizations receiving Safety Net funding or to learn more about United Way investments in Education and Jobs, Systems Change, capacity building for smaller nonprofits and innovation grants visit www.gtcuw.org