In March 2018, United Way introduced the community to ALICE – our friends and neighbors who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE is your child care worker, the cashier at your supermarket, the gas attendant, the salesperson at your big box store, your waitress, a home health aide, an office clerk. ALICE cannot always pay the bills, has little or nothing in savings, and is forced to make tough choices such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent. One unexpected car repair or medical bill can push these financially strapped families over the edge. The community has embraced the data, putting a face, a name and a story to the struggle.
But the story doesn’t end there.
At United Way, we’ve taken the bold step of focusing our collaborative efforts and investments on moving ALICE from crisis, to survival to sustainability. As we begin a two-year investment strategy in local, direct service programming, we are focusing on ALICE. The data is clear: there are too many people in our community that are working and still struggling to make ends meet and we’re determined to change that.
There are a number of issues in our community that require a collective response. Three of the most pressing ones are access to quality childcare, reliable transportation, and affordable housing.
Imagine a community where no one loses a job because of a flat tire, where every child has a safe place to go while their parents work, and where families don’t have to worry about having a roof over their heads. That’s the kind of community we are fighting for here at United Way and we believe that we can get there together.
I met with a local business leader recently who shared a story about an employee who “couldn’t afford a raise.” I thought I heard her wrong. She went on to share that if the employee’s income went up, she would lose her childcare subsidy and have less income, despite the raise. There are so many people in our community who are working incredibly hard to support their families and feel as though the system is working against them. This has to change.
Not only are we investing in healthy organizations that are implementing quality programs, but we’re making sure they don’t go it alone. As part of our commitment to these organizations, we are providing targeted professional development, connection to skilled volunteers and strategic advocacy.
We’re all doing our best to get by. Some of us face bigger hurdles than others, be it due to systemic injustice or unexpected life circumstances. Regardless of who we are or where we struggle, there’s one thing I’m sure about: Change doesn’t happen alone.
At United Way, we are committed to facilitating change and engaging the right partners to join us. It’s complex work and it’s critical to our community’s success.
In the coming months, we look forward to introducing you to the ALICE Coalition – a group of community leaders committed to fighting for ALICE and embracing the intersections of the struggle.
I say this at least once a week, but I’ve got the best job in the Valley. I get to witness hope, partnership, collaboration and passion, each and every day. We’ve got
work to do. Let’s do this.