United Way Addresses Transportation & Housing Access
Why is United Way talking about transportation and doing studies of things like housing access? Throughout our 14 year history as a local, independent nonprofit, United Way of Central Kentucky has evolved from our roots as a fundraising organization to become a convener of community change. As long as individual agencies only address a piece of community needs, underlying problems will continue to persist. It’s not enough to give money and hope something good will happen; without coordinated strategies there will be more children living in poverty, entering school unprepared to learn, being pulled off the path to success by negative influences, and growing into adults who struggle to provide for their families. Without someone willing to take on the challenging role of helping our community find solutions to the causes of these problems, we will always be dealing reactively to symptoms of a much greater issues.
No organization is better positioned to be that leader of community change than United Way, because the solution to poverty is not found simply through programs- it’s people that are the key. Our relationships with industry, nonprofits, government, the faith community, and individuals allow us to convene the resources and expertise needed to get things done. And because United Way belongs to you, our community, we have made turning outward for your involvement a key part of our work to assess local needs and develop strategies to confront these issues head-on.
We have held Community Conversations in each county we serve, and met with leaders of industry, nonprofits, the financial sector, health experts, and religious community. As a result of this feedback, we held Summits on issues such as childhood hunger, school readiness, housing and homelessness, and transportation. While change never happens overnight, we are encouraged by the solutions that have come forward from these discussions, such as Give a Day for Hunger which expanded food access to children when they are not being fed at school during spring and fall breaks. The conversation around housing showed that not only was there a need for better data to help our nonprofits develop an informed response to this issue, but new collaborations such as Room at the Inn and the Housing & Homelessness Coalition were formed. Our community now has access to United Way Born Learning Academies and Ages & Stages developmental screeners as a result of convening school readiness experts. These efforts, combined with the investments we make in 35 programs provided in partnership with 25 agencies, and the reinforcing activities of volunteers means we can strategically deploy a broader range of resources against more focused, clearly defined problems.
Over the past several years, the issue of transportation has been brought to us multiple times as a barrier to improved workforce engagement, education, and health. We offered funding for 2 years to address this need but continued to hear that there was interagency organization work needed before a specific program could offer this service. Our goal of the Transportation Summit was to discuss the need and identify small-scale, privately-funded solutions, such as ride sharing and technological applications, which could be piloted before evaluating broader responses for the region. We recognize that issues this complex have been studied from multiple perspectives and that whenever we are tasked with responding to problems that no one agency can address, there will be many possible solutions and implications to consider. We remain committed to finding common ground that helps us take a step beyond the sentiment that “someone really should do something about that” and presents a feasible, data-driven, transparent plan for how to move forward. We do not believe government can solve every problem or meet every need, which is why the overarching goal of this work is not public mass transit nor an increasing burden on taxpayers, but how we can empower families to become self-sufficient so they can provide for themselves.
By taking on these challenges there will undoubtedly be a need not only for community input, but a willingness to help turn ideas into reality. We welcome the opportunity to meet with anyone who would like to explore how they can best use their skills and interests in our efforts to move more local residents to stability. By leveraging your passion and dedication, we believe our community can come together to get things done and make our region even stronger. Please contact us if you would like to go beyond giving and help solve our community’s challenges by visiting unitedwayck.org.