United Way of Greater Portland (UWGP) has invested in programs and partnerships that are helping to ensure 70% of households pay less than 30% of their income on housing. UWGP is proud to support the work of EmPOWERme, a Portland Housing Authority Resident Services program designed to help residents find the tools to get ahead in a way that matches their values and goals.
Ryan joined EmPOWERme in the fall of 2018 when her job as a Teacher’s Aide was coming to an end. She wanted help to find a better job in social services, improve her finances, and finish college.
The Family Coaches encouraged Ryan to apply for a new position at Portland Housing Authority (PHA), connecting her to her desired field. Ryan also enrolled in the EmPOWERme Employment and Savings Program (FSS), a HUD Family Self Sufficiency Program, and met with an FSS Coordinator to create a five-year goal plan. Within a few months, Ryan started her new full-time job with benefits at PHA. With Ryan’s new position and financial planning, she began earning $107/month in an FSS free savings account. To multiply Ryan’s savings further, she completed free financial workshops and applied for a matched savings account. Ryan shared, “All of this became possible because I enrolled in EmPOWERme and my coach connected me to resources to assist with my goals. By sharing this experience, I’d like to tell you that “Yes, with EmPOWERme you can.”
A FATHER’S MENTAL HEALTH BATTLE
United Way of Greater Portland (UWGP) has invested in programs and partnerships that are helping to reduce preventable premature deaths by focusing on mental health, substance use prevention and treatment, and suicide prevention. UWGP is proud to support the work of Maine Behavioral Healthcare, a comprehensive mental health service organization that provides coordinated client and patient care across multiple locations and treatment settings.
Donnie, a single father to his 9-year-old son, shared his increased anxiety and depression with his Primary Care Provider. The Provider was concerned about Donnie’s health, as he had a history of suicidal ideation and his ability to care for his son. They connected Donnie to Maine Behavioral Healthcare who found him a therapist within two days. Part of Donnie’s treatment plan was to focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in order to learn skills to manage his symptoms and focus on his PHQ-9 score. The PHQ-9 is a 9-question instrument given to patients in a primary care setting to screen for the presence and severity of depression. Donnie’s PHQ-9 score was 19 when he entered treatment. Once his PHQ9 score was below a 14 he would transition to a therapist at his primary care physician’s office as needed. While in therapy Donnie was also able to receive referrals to other integral community resources.
Today Donnie is completing his individual therapy treatment and incorporating family sessions with his son’s therapist to support their relationship and empower him as a parent.
BUILDING RESILIENCY THROUGH SUPPORTIVE RELATIONSHIPS
Mariah was chronically absent in kindergarten. She struggled to acquire reading skills and became frustrated when she couldn’t complete the same academic tasks as her peers. By first grade, Mariah felt disconnected and began falling further behind.
Count ME In, a funded community partner of United Way of Greater Portland, is a partnership of schools, businesses, parents, youth, state, and community organizations working to improve student attendance, engagement, and academic achievement.
The Count ME In team designed a plan to support Mariah’s learning and help her family get her to school. Morning Mentor/Walking School Bus program volunteers walk with families to school or the bus stop every day. This helped connect Mariah’s family with other children and families in the neighborhood and enabled her mother to get to early morning appointments for her mental health and substance abuse treatment that supported a stable home environment. She knew Mariah was safe and part of a neighborhood program.
By the middle of first grade, Mariah was attending school regularly, and she and her mother both felt more connected to and supported by the school community. By the end of third grade, Mariah was reading at grade level and no longer needed remedial reading support.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE, ONE CONVERSATION AT A TIME
On June 9, busloads of asylum seekers began arriving in Portland. In the first week, 170 asylum seekers arrived in the city. Two months later, that number more than doubled to 448 individuals seeking shelter. The city turned to UWGP to help manage volunteer requests, which included running background checks on volunteers interested in supporting our new neighbors living at the Portland Expo. By the end of July, nearly 2,000 people submitted a volunteer application.
Michael was one of those volunteers. He sought asylum six years prior and knew first-hand the many challenges our new neighbors faced. Michael’s experience overcoming a language barrier so he could connect with his new community drove his desire to volunteer with new asylum seekers.
UWGP is where the community comes together to help children, individuals, and families in ways that create a brighter future for all. We are proud of United Way’s role in the volunteer vetting process and the submission of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program application, which resulted in nearly $900,000 in federal funds.