By Staff –
The Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative will begin a door-to-door push to enroll city residents in its new Bridges to Success program, and its Family Independence Initiative, the first two public offerings from the group, on April 29.
Officials will target the homes of 7,500 families for ten weeks beginning this month, in the EMMA, Beechwood, Marketview Heights, and CONEA neighborhoods, in an effort to enroll 300 families in the programs for two-year pilot periods. The initiatives have been designed to help city residents overcome barriers to finding employment and attaining self-sufficiency, RMAPI said.
According to Gregory Sheldon, a research fellow with the city’s office of innovation, the goal of the door-to-door campaign will be to enroll 150 people in the Bridges to Success mentoring program, and 150 in the Family Independence Initiative.
Both programs are anti-poverty initiatives that have been duplicated in cities across the country, in an effort to increase residents’ financial security in the regions.
The idea of the Bridges to Success program will be to match participants with individual mentors, and the Family Independence Initiative will help participants form self-directed peer groups.
Rochester’s Catholic Family Center will be the lead agency for the programs, in partnership with Action for a Better Community and The Community Place of Greater Rochester.
“What we heard from RMAPI workgroups, and subsequent surveys from the community, is that some people like working with a professional, to partner with them one on one. That’s Bridges to Success,” CFC director of Family Prosperity Programs Ron Rizzo stated. “The Family Independence Initiative is very different. It’s really based on a philosophy of thought that people already have the power of social networks. So, it assumes that people have resourcefulness, and connections. It assumes the only thing they don’t have is sufficient money, or financial security.”
According to Rizzo, both programs have been successfully replicated in cities like Oakland, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, New Orleans, Detroit and Queens, and Rochester’s versions have been funded by state grants that require matching funds from private donors. The total budget for the programs is $2.95 million.
Rizzo said the money will go toward providing participants with financial incentives, and connections to local resources, in support of achieving their goals, which might include earning a high school or college diploma, finding a new job, or saving to purchase a new home, but may vary according to the individual. In turn, CFC, along with the other agencies that are administering the programs, will compile data to measure the participants’ success, as a way of keeping track of what works, and what doesn’t.
For instance, the Family Independence Initiative will supply each member of the initiative with a laptop, so they can share their progress online with CFC, and the organization will track participants’ advancement toward meeting their goals.
“Each person in FII is given a computer, so they can share their goals, and they can share their initiatives of what works and doesn’t work,” Rizzo stated. “The information goes online into a cloud, and we analyze what works and doesn’t work. And then, we provide funds to invest in their initiatives. So, if they say childcare is an issue, and they have some idea of how they might solve that problem for their peer group; then we might invest in that. Or, if they say we just need to develop our family relationships now, and we’d like to go to a theme park – we might invest in that. The only criteria is that we ask people – what would we learn from this initiative, and how would that benefit others in the social network? We’re looking for 150 people to form 20 peer groups of six to eight people each. This collective knowledge-sharing is key to the success of this initiative. It’s how successes of each family can be replicated throughout the social network, and it is the basis for bringing in outside resources to people inside this network.”
Conversely, Bridges to Success will pair professional mentors with caseloads of about 20 participants each for the two-year trial period.
Bridges participants will be placed on either the evaluation track, where they will be accepted into the program and paired with a mentor, or the comparison track, where they will not be placed in the Bridges program, but instead referred to outside agencies for the appropriate services, once they complete an intake interview.
However, regardless of whether a participant is paired with a mentor or referred to an outside agency, Action for a Better Community program manager Lydia Alston-Murphy said each eligible participant will still receive the services they need through the initiative.
“Everyone will receive services,” Alston-Murphy stated. “If they’re referred to another program, they’re no longer a part of Bridges to Success, but there are other outside agencies involved in the initiative, and they understand that we will be referring folks out.”
Following the programs’ two-year evaluation phase, RMAPI will decide how to roll the programs out, both city- and county-wide.
Eligible participants must currently be at least 18 years of age, U.S citizens, live in one of RMAPI’s four designated neighborhoods, and earn an income within 200 percent of the federal poverty level guidelines. During the initial roll-out phase, participants in both programs must also be English-speaking, in order to advance through the intake process, until the program acquires additional Spanish-speaking administrators.
Interested applicants may attend one of three walk-in information sessions that will be ongoing, from May 1 through June 29. The sessions will take place Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., at 145 Parsells Ave.; Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., at 57 Central Park; and Thursdays, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at 145 Parsells Ave.
Applicants may also call Bridges to Success, at (585) 730-6191, or the Family Independence Initiative, at (585) 953-0189, for additional information.
Visit www.familyprosperityroc.org for additional information regarding the programs.