Twenty-four percent of households in the Fort Wayne area live on an annual income above the Federal Poverty Level, but still below the basic cost of living in Allen County. This critical population is called “ALICE,” meaning they are Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed. This is a hard-working group of people that is doing everything possible to maintain gainful employment, but are hindered by their income because it is too high to receive government assistance, yet too low to ever reach financial stability. These households lack the ability to build up their assets, are typically living paycheck to paycheck and are generally comprised of individuals lacking proper skills and resources to better their current situation.
United Way of Allen County CEO David Nicole says his organization strives to create lasting change through advocacy, agency investments, collaborative initiatives and volunteerism. “We have been doing all of these things for a while, but what is specifically new in our endeavors is a focus on the ALICE population,” he says. “These are families who are working hard but still struggle to survive, and in some cases are considered to be the backbone of our community. They are burdened by specific barriers such as being torn between buying medicine or food.”
In order to better target the ALICE population, United Way is now moving from a relatively broad perspective along an age continuum of ‘cradle to career’ to a more focused lens. “Our focus on how we do business is changing,” Nicole explains. “The ALICE reports conducted in Indiana reveal more clearly to us this critical population of people that could easily fall through the cracks without support. Through community conversations, we identified the community barriers they face and through collaboration with the community, we will work toward better solutions.”
United Way focuses on the issues faced by the ALICE population and continues its work to provide needed solutions to ensure success for everyone, including children, adolescents and adults. “Often there is a lack of access to necessary job skills,” says Nicole. “There can be a lack of access to reliable transportation, work support, quality childhood education and dependable childcare. Childhood success is one of our focus areas for a few reasons: one, it is a clearly identified barrier, and two, this is a pipeline and we want to prevent this cycle from repeating itself for the next generation. In other words, childhood success is both today and next week, youth success is tomorrow, and adult success is today.”
While one individual organization like United Way cannot feasibly reach 100 percent of struggling populations like ALICE, collaborative partnerships and initiatives with various other local agencies help broaden that reach to serve as many people as possible. “Although we will not likely counteract all of the problems these families face, we are optimistic that the more narrowed focus will lead to better quality outcomes to specific, targeted objectives,” says United Way of Allen County board chair Dan Starr.
“New collaborations are key to our success in helping as many people as we can,” Nicole says. “It is a holistic approach, it is nonprofit, for-profit, education systems, health care, government, etc. working together around a common goal. While money is integral to executing a mission, I don’t believe all the money in the world could solve the human service problems we have or reach all of the ALICE populations. What I do think will change the impact we have is how we, the community, can effectively work together.”
Address: 334 E. Berry St. Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
Phone: (260) 422-4776