United Way offers Community Resource Exchange Day
For people seeking housing, education, employment, food or health care resources for immediate or long-term needs, Spokane County United Way is offering a one-day Community Resource Exchange from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Spokane Resource Center, 130 S. Arthur.
Like the center, the day is “a one-stop-shop” opportunity for low-income people to access 10 of the center’s partners and 15 of United Way’s 37 partners.
“We saw a need for low-income families and individuals—like people going to the Homeless Connect—to go one day to access services for after-school, early learning and other education resources, for affordable housing and energy assistance, for employment opportunities and training, and for family and youth services.” said Jeff DeBray, United Way’s community outreach and development manager.
Those who come will have access to direct services, a meal, hats, gloves, boots and jackets, hygiene and snack kits. Organizations will be present to do onsite hiring.
Sponsors Providence Health and Numerica Credit Union will provide funding for the meal and warm clothes, as well as 20 volunteers.
Jeff, a native of Montana who has been with United Way since graduating in 2018 in economics and politics from Whitworth University, said United Way seeks to “improve the educational, health and financial stability” of county residents.
United Way is inviting low-income families through schools, the city, courts, early childhood education, partner agencies and faith communities. The event is on a Saturday so people who work can come, he said.
Jeff hopes families will leave the event better equipped to navigate the system and access resources, and volunteers will better understand challenges for families living paycheck to paycheck.
Lisa Curtis, director of communications and marketing at United Way, said, “Our work is to prevent homelessness. Many low-income families are one dilemma away from homelessness. Prevention comes in the form of before- and after-school programs, affordable meals, affordable housing and jobs.
In September 2018 and 2019, United Way held Day of Impact simulations, recruiting each year about 70 people from the business community to discover the challenge for a family using a bus pass to access services with children in tow. The simulations helped participants realize the need for a resource fair.
Lisa said United Way targets Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) families.
United Way also has an online simulation to help people understand the difficult decisions ALICE families make every day. It’s at unitedwayspokane.org/alice.
“ALICE families struggling to make ends meet have increased from 36 percent of county residents last year to 38 percent this year,” she said.
They are 45 percent of families in the City of Spokane, 50 percent of families in Airway Heights and 62 percent of families in Cheney.
Jeff said United Way is in a unique position to offer the Community Resource Exchange with 37 partners, program grants and partners who financially support agencies to promote education, health care and financial stability.
Lisa, who has been with United Way for 13 years, said its focus changes based on community needs and funding. The current two-year funding focuses on ALICE families, domestic violence and child abuse.
“ALICE families need support to strengthen overall community health. There’s a gap between the rate of low-income and minority students’ graduation and the graduation rate of their affluent peers,” she said.
Because of that trend, United Way has also drawn funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to increase equity in education.
Jeff said United Way Funding provided partners with more than $2.5 million in two-year grants.
“Agencies welcome that sustainable support, because many are able to renew those grants another two years,” he said.
Sally Pritchard, who has been vice president of community impact and with United Way for 16 years, helps United Way find outside funding partners.
Recently they added funding from Avista Foundation and the Ballmer Group for a new position to coordinate the community’s response to homeless youth and young adults related to the A Way Home Washington initiative.
Excelerate Success, an education and equity program, is funded by a four-year grant from the Gates Foundation based on community data that shows that youth of color have disproportionately lower rates of graduation and higher rates of suspension, homelessness and juvenile justice involvement, Sally said.
United Way has been offering educational events to create a more equitable system.
Ileoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk about Race, is speaking on Nov. 15 for a sold-out event to raise awareness of the community. Attendees include staff from the Regional Health District; early childhood, K-12, higher education; the City of Spokane, and United Way partners on inequitable systems and mental models behind racist assumptions in systems.
Last year, Robin DiAngelo, author of White Privilege led a training on assumptions and systems that create implicit and actual bias.
“It’s not about blame,” Sally said, “but about the need to change societal understandings that come from being born into a white system.”
Jeff said training people in business and nonprofits helps them be better advocates and allies.
United Way also has local trainers, including Kurtis Robinson of NAACP Spokane and Rowena Piñeda and Carmen Pacheco-Jones of the Regional Health District.
“Looking at the poverty data for ALICE families, Sally said its more likely that African American, Latinx American and Native American families live in poverty, so the ongoing trainings reaching more people are an important part of United Way’s efforts to improve everyone’s educational, health and financial stability.
For information, call 838-6581, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit unitedwayspokane.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, November, 2019