This weeks’ question comes from John Moore, who wonders what Chatham County is doing to lift people out of poverty.
As it turns out, he may be answering his own question.
Moore is the executive director of UPLIFT Chatham, an organization which aims to help people move themselves out of poverty. UPLIFT stands for Understanding Poverty: Lifting Individuals and Families Together.
For more than five years, the organization pursued an empowerment model, which offered leadership development classes and ongoing support to Chatham residents in poverty.
But Moore said when the model wasn’t having the results they hoped for, they went looking for something new.
Now, he’s settled on an integrated service delivery model—essentially putting everything a person in poverty may need under one roof.
Moore said he is making progress on building a “marvelous array of non-profit organizations” to provide the services in Chatham, and hopes to open in Siler City soon. But the largest barrier to implementing the ISD program is funding.
The success of similar programs elsewhere may serve as proof that the costs are worth it.
One such program, the Greensboro Family Success Center, run by the local United Way, shows particularly strong results, Moore said. A survey conducted as part of the Family Partnership Agreement found that participants in the Greensboro program were more than three times as likely to report increased access to healthcare, public benefits, basic needs, transportation, housing stability and growth in employment status, employment opportunity and financial independence.
The Success Center offers a variety of services including the ability for people to get their GED and on-site childcare.
Moore cited childcare as a particularly important factor to tackle in the county, claiming it could cost $12,000 per year per child.
According to data from the 2008 through 2012 American Community Survey, and July 2017 state population estimates, more than 2000 children are eligible for subsidized childcare in Chatham, but only 13.48 percent, or 274 children, are receiving it.
The county allocates more than $2.1 million to pay for these programs.
But childcare isn’t the only large county expense associated with poverty. According to 2018 data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 886 people reported receiving Housing Choice vouchers for subsidized housing in Chatham. HUD reported spending an average of $574 per household per month, costing the agency more than $2.8 million a year.
In addition to serving a moral imperative, Moore hopes by implementing the ISD model, the county will be able to save the county money by reducing spending on other subsidized expenses.
Perhaps one way of doing that is with technology.
Moore said NCCARE360, an integrated electronic directory aiming to connect people in need with community resources, was “80 percent” of the ISD model he sought to implement.
The program launched in Alamance, Guilford and Rockingham counties last month, and has plans to expand to Wake, Johnston, Pitt, Edgecombe, Beaufort, Martin, Hertford, Bertie and Chowan counties by the end of 2020.
“To build a healthier North Carolina, we must build a system of health that unites health care and human services,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a news release about the program. “NCCARE360 is a scalable, coordinated solution that makes it easier for providers, insurers and community organizations to connect people with the resources they need to be healthy and delivers value for all.”
Moore isn’t the only person concerned about this issue.
The Chatham County Comprehensive Plan lays out several objectives that could address poverty-related issues, including increasing educational and employment opportunities, improving transportation and expanding healthcare access.
Poverty was also voted the number-two priority in the Chatham Health Alliance Community Assessment. Based on the results of the assessment, the CHA created a new poverty subcommittee, where Moore is pushing for a more holistic approach to tackling the issue.
The committee is currently working on developing a strategic plan and action items.
“There’s not a silver bullet or magic wand,” Moore said. “It’s a long, long haul and requires a lot of support.”