Entrenched, complex issues facing the City of Boston require strong partnerships

Tonight, Mayor Martin J. Walsh will share with the region his vision for the City of Boston for the year ahead.  Complex, entrenched issues such as reducing poverty and income inequality, reducing homelessness and narrowing the achievement gap will be in the spotlight.  The good news? Strong partnerships are already in place to make progress on these issues in 2015.

In recent months, Mayor Walsh has made reducing poverty and income inequality and reducing homelessness a priority.  In October, Mayor Walsh joined United Way, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) to announce two new financial opportunity centers, funded by the United Way and LISC, as initial components of a sweeping plan to promote economic resilience in Boston. The full-service centers will offer job search assistance, access to training for career development, and financial coaching to help people manage their resources and obtain available benefits. A web-based assessment tool will allow staff to determine the needs of new clients and help them establish and track their employment goals. Research shows that families are more likely to achieve financial success through an integrated approach such as this one.

Last month, Michael K. Durkin, United Way president, was named to the Mayor’s Task Force on Individual Homelessness,  which is charged with “examining Boston’s current shelter system and available support services, and outlining a strategy that will put homeless individuals on a path to permanent housing.”   United Way is proud to join this group of innovative business, nonprofit and city leaders in tackling this challenging issue.  We hope to leverage our knowledge and learnings from our work with the new “Pay for Success” initiative at the state level to help the City accomplish its targeted goals, including: appropriate relocation for and service improvements to the Long Island Shelter,  reducing the number of individuals who live in shelter longer than 180 days,  reducing the number of individuals living on the street, and developing ways to engage homeless youth and young adults, who often do not seek traditional shelter and do not respond to traditional outreach efforts.

Mayor Walsh has also focused on expanding access and quality of early education in the City of Boston.  Both United Way and Thrive in 5, a public-private partnership between the City of Boston and United Way to ensure all children enter school ready to succeed, are represented on the Mayor’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Advisory Committee.  This group, supported by a grant from United Way, is working to recommend a city-wide strategic framework and action plan to double the enrollment of four-year-olds in high quality, full-day pre-kindergarten programs by 2018.

One sign we are on the right track: last month, the White House released a Playbook to offer strategies for local leaders to develop and expand early education in their communities.  In that playbook, Boston was cited as one of two communities (the other is San Francisco) that are “on the path to becoming model early learning cities for the nation.”  The Boston Public Schools, Thrive in Five, and United Way are featured in the playbook for their work, including BPS’s high-quality preschool program, our Boston K1DS demonstration project and Thrive in 5’s strategies to create a Ready City, Ready Educators, Ready Systems, Ready Families and Ready Children.

We are proud to join with the Mayor in looking forward to what we can accomplish over the next year on these issues. Together, we can do more than any of us can alone.