An up-close and personal look at United Way’s impact in the community is only a bus ride away. Volunteers, donors, local community and business leaders learned more about United Way’s work in ending family homelessness on March 13th by loading several Badger Buses and embarking on United Way of Dane County’s first LEARN United Tour. Participants were able to gain a deeper understanding of how United Way is working to ensure that every family in our community has a permanent and stable place to call home.
“Seeing this work with my own eyes only reinforces how important United Way’s work is to our community,” says Jack Salzwedel, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of American Family Insurance and 2014 United Way of Dane County Campaign Chair. “United Way has an incredible ability to bring together the community around an issue, find the root causes and by doing so, develop a long-term solution so everyone in Dane County can pursue their dreams. It’s quite inspiring.”
Attendees visited St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry and The Road Home where they experienced several of the key strategies that are the cornerstones of United Way’s work to end family homelessness in our community. The first—access to health food—is key to keeping a family stable. “Even in resource rich Dane County, a growing number of children do not have access to healthy food which is critical to growing strong bodies and brains,” says Martha Cranley, Director of Community Impact at United Way of Dane County. “Nationally, $7 out of every $10 dollars in a low income family’s budget are spent on basic needs such as housing, clothing, transportation and food. Clearly this has implications for hunger and food security for families. We want to make sure that no family ever has to choose between putting food on the table and paying rent.”
The second key to permanently ending family homelessness is United Way’s initiative Housing First. Housing First is an innovative housing strategy that costs half as much as shelter
and is more than twice as effective. Research shows 37% of families that enter shelter become independent. But, 80% of families are stabilized in Housing First. United Way’s housing and case management initiatives are stabilizing over 2,100 families in Dane County.
“We talk about how we are changing lives, through the generosity of our donors and the incredible work of our partner agencies and volunteers,” said Leslie Ann Howard, President & CEO, United Way of Dane County, “but there is nothing like seeing it in person. We’re excited to bring people to experience the results happening before their eyes. By doing this we are giving people a call to action… to make a difference in the community, by either donating, volunteering or advocating in the areas of not only housing but also Education and Health. We’re focused on getting more people engaged with our work. It’s more than just making a donation, it’s about transforming our community for the next generation,” Howard said.