UCAN's work is based on understanding that poverty is experienced differently by different people. The majority of people who become poor are no longer poor a year later. This is often the case for people experiencing a crisis, such as loss of employment, that reduces their income or assets. They may need just a little help to exit poverty. Some people grow up in a culture of poverty, and need to learn new ways of living to escape poverty. Others, like some seniors living on a fixed income, have life circumstances that make it very difficult to improve their economic situation. They may not be able to exit poverty, but they can still enjoy a better quality of life.
Since the situations people face while living in poverty differ, UCAN offers a menu of different services for those it helps. These services range along a continuum. Regardless of whether someone recently became poor, has grown up in poverty, or has a condition making it unlikely they will escape poverty, they first need their lives stabilized. A stable life starts with having food to eat, a place to live, a way to stay warm. So we provide affordable housing, we provide rental assistance and move-in assistance, we provide utility assistance, improve home heating and teach people how to better keep their homes warm, and we provide food to kitchens and pantries and grow and collect healthy food to improve the nutritional quality of meals.
As people have their basic needs met, many are ready to work their way out of poverty. We offer many services that help people exit poverty. Children become ready for school and lifelong success through our Head Start/Early Head Start programs. Our tax assistance program helps many obtain refunds from the IRS, putting extra money in their pockets. Our Senior Companion Program provides stipends to low-income seniors. We offer a number of services that help people save money, like prescription assistance. We provide help so people are better able to manage their money. We provide low-cost transit options so people can access jobs. And we link people with many other services community wide that help them make their move out of poverty.
This approach allows us to improve the lives of more than 50,000 people in Douglas and Josephine County each year. For some, this means the simple pleasure of enjoying a hot, healthy meal. For many, this means shortening the time they experience poverty. This is critically important, because the less time someone is poor, the more likely they are to exit poverty. For children, reducing the time lived in poverty increases the likelihood they will succeed in school, be employed as adults and live prosperous, healthy lives.