More people are on pathways out of poverty

More than 60,000 people in Dane County live in poverty, that’s more than 1 in 7 residents – 1 in 6 children. Lack of family-supporting wage jobs is the primary contributor to this community crisis. In addition, lack of access to education, skills, quality childcare and other community supports also present barriers to economic stability.


United Way is focused on tackling these issues at the root cause. Our multigenerational approach combines our work in job training and employment, housing, and early childhood support to break the cycle of poverty. One key element of this work is our HIRE Education Employment Initiative – a United Way program that ensures families are linked to employment and career ladders. Another is our Journey Home initiative, aimed at successfully reintegrating ex-offenders into the community.

Learn about how we work to create a stronger, financially healthier and more productive Dane County below.

Why it Matters:

More than 12,000 adults in Dane County over the age of 25 do not have a high school degree. Without a high school diploma, the annual earning power is $19,169.

Without adequate education to get employment, residents are unable to provide for themselves and their families.

Dane County has an extraordinarily high disparity in employment. Four times more African American adults are unemployed than white residents.

When individuals have jobs earning sufficient wages, they are less stressed, able to provide for themselves and their families, and are on the path to economic stability.

What we will achieve:

  • Increase the number of individuals getting a high school diploma or equivalency.
  • Increase the number of individuals getting and maintaining employment for 6 months or more.
  • Increase the number of individuals employment and increase in the numbers earning $15 an hour or more.


HIRE Initiative

More people in the workforce improves the quality of living for all of Dane County.

HIRE helps participants navigate their way through the complex systems needed to get the job they desire. HIRE targets individuals ages 17+, who do not have a high school diploma and are seeking employment.

6 agencies – Literacy Network, Centro Hispano, Madison area Urban Ministry, Urban League, Vera Court, YWCA Madison – work together to ensure all participants receive an individualized Hiring Plan (IHP) that outlines the steps needed to achieve their education and employment goals.

HIRE Employer Council Toolkit

Are you a HIRE Employer Partner? This kit will give you the tools to promote HIRE on your website or to other potential council members and employers.


Journey Home

Our Journey Home initiative, a program aimed at decreasing the rate of recidivism in Dane County, is another tactic to improve the economic stability of our population. By mobilizing the community, volunteers, local leaders, businesses, government and nonprofit agencies, we have reduced the return to prison rate of Dane County. Journey Home offers programming for men and women returning from prison in need of housing, employment, support and treatment.

Why it Matters:

  • In 2003, 66% of ex-offenders in Dane County returned to prison within two years of release.
  • Released offenders who fail to successfully reintegrate with the community are likely to violate rules or commit new crimes.
  • Without employment ex-offenders can’t make it – find housing, reunify with their family, or become productive members of the community.
  • Families suffer when the primary wage earner is not able to find employment.

What we will achieve:

  • 90% of the released offenders to Dane County will not return to prison within two years of their release
  • Since the Journey Home initiative began, the return to prison rate for the participants has decreased to 5.1% in 2015.
  • The community-level return to prison rate declined from 66% in 2003 to 19% in 2012.


  • Reintegration – Research shows that by helping ex-offenders access at least three of these four critical areas: Residency, Employment, Treatment and Support (REST) we are laying the foundation for a successful reintegration into the community.
  • Journey Home is also cost-effective – $716 per person vs. $38,000 per year cost of prison.