Who is struggling in our city?
There are individuals, households, and families all over the country who struggle to make ends meet every day. They are continuously facing high-stress decisions, like “do I put enough food on the table or pay the electricity bill this week?” Given this daily, consuming strain, many people struggle to get and/or keep a job that provides a livable wage. In fact, on a global scale, 1 in 10 children lives in a home where no adult is employed, and 1 in 5 children live in poverty (UNICEF). Underlying their circumstances are issues related to financial stability–or a lack thereof. Financial instability can be attributed to a variety of factors, from the zip code that an individual was born into to a lack of financial education. Without financial stability, it’s almost impossible for an individual or household to achieve economic mobility or reach their full human potential.
According to the recent ALICE in Tennessee report, about 39% of households in our state struggle to maintain livable finances, with 15% of those households living below the federal poverty line. Even among those that are able to maintain employment, “67% of the 2.9 million jobs in [Tennessee] pay less than $20 an hour, with two-thirds of those paying less than $15 an hour.” In 2017, 39% of Tennessee adults were out of the workforce due to various issues related to business conditions, childcare gaps, and more, and 44% of households had no money in savings. Our Greater Chattanooga community is no exception. In every corner of the city, people are wrestling with financial strain. These numbers for the state of Tennessee are an accurate representation of Hamilton County itself, with 39% of households in our community facing different levels of financial instability. (Find information on the ALICE report here.)
A Story of Success
At United Way of Greater Chattanooga, we believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to gain the skills and abilities they need to lead a stable life for themselves and for their families. Every Greater Chattanoogan should be connected to the resources they need to get and maintain a good job that pays a livable wage and leads to economic mobility. We’re proud to partner with and support a number of nonprofits and organizations in our community that are fighting for the advancement of financial stability for every Greater Chattanoogan in every neighborhood.
One of these community programs, called Building Stable Lives, is funded by UWGC and managed in partnership with The Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults, Inc. and the Helen Ross McNabb Center. The program is neighborhood-based and operated in five areas: Alton Park, East Lake, Highland Park, Brainerd, and East Chattanooga. Building Stable Lives is free for participants and aims to help individuals and households dealing with financial issues to navigate the system in order to achieve stability and economic mobility. Participants are paired with a Life Coach who helps them assess their current situation and develop a plan for success. The program is participant-centered and driven by the goals set by each individual. Building Stable Lives teaches participants how to job search for long-term employment, locate safe and affordable housing, access community resources like mental health and other health-related services, develop and maintain a budget, access educational opportunities and create a greater sense of interconnected community.
Karen Nichols, one of the Building Stables Lives Life Coaches, guided a former felon through his reintegration into working society. After serving his time, Eddie Simms wanted to build a better life for himself, but struggled to maintain financial stability (as former felons without proper support often do). With the help of Building Stable Lives, Mr. Simms was able not only to secure a job, but also to reinstate his driver’s license so that he could drive to work and maintain his employment. With his newfound confidence, Mr. Simms has been able to successfully reintegrate into society. Mr. Simms went on to graduate from the Building Stable Lives program and use his new stability skills to keep his long-term job, pursue homeownership, and even pay his experience forward by mentoring his own nephew — his nephew is now employed and on the path to stability himself.
How can you help?
You can pay it forward, too. By donating to United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s impact fund, you are helping to support community stability efforts via programs like Building Stable Lives, enabling hardworking individuals like Eddie Simms to find employment and become productive members of our community. We need your help to continue fighting to make financial stability accessible to every member of our community. Click here to donate to stability today.