United for Women Provides Financial and Emotional Support for Women in Crisis
Apr 30, 2015 02:41PM ● Published by Clare Heekin Lynch
“What surprised me most when I first got involved with the United for Women group was the fact that everyone you talk to can personally identify with the women we help,” said Moon Township resident and United Way volunteer and Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) executive team member Pam Fletcher. “Whether through a personal connection or indirectly through someone else, we all know women who have needed a little extra help financially or emotionally.”
Now in its third year, the United for Women initiative was created by United Way of Allegheny County’s WLC to assist women who are struggling financially for the first time and are just one step away from crisis. A crisis can be anything from an unexpected illness or divorce, to caring for an aging family member, to a returning veteran struggling to transition to life back home. “The program’s focus is to help women get through an intense time of change with the ultimate goal of helping them gain self-sufficiency,” said Lisa Kelly, development officer for the United Way Allegheny County. “A woman’s life can be traumatically impacted by life changes, and we have found that many women reach out for support during these times in order to keep their housing, maintain or secure their employment, or provide care for loved ones. We want to help them maintain a sense of hope and get them back on their feet in order to succeed.”
Research shows that when women suffer such setbacks, rebounding presents a greater challenge for them than for their male counterparts. And many women and their children are just one step away from financial crisis due to significant life events or situations. “When women reach this critical point in their lives, they can feel very helpless and lost. A small investment can prevent further setbacks and help them rebuild their strength and financial security,” explained Kelly. “Our goal is to get these women immediate, tangible support to avoid more serious crises, such as homelessness or long-term poverty.”
The United for Women initiative works because of the generous support of United Way donors. Funds raised go to support agencies throughout the region that are focused on helping women get back on their feet. Money is earmarked for women who need help to overcome immediate financial crises in order to help them get back on the path to regaining financial stability. United for Women funded programs can be used to enable women to secure and maintain housing; provide a micro-grant to cover the cost of a car/insurance payment, avoid default on a car loan or repair a car; provide financial coaching; offer guidance with accessing resources; assist with legal issues; and provide help navigating the health care system. In addition to funding programs that have an immediate impact on the lives of women in crisis, United for Women also engages volunteers to help women regain their jobs, enter the workforce and stabilize their family situations.
Women finding themselves in a position where they need a little extra help can begin by calling the United Way’s 2-1-1 line, where a United for Women navigator will ask for basic preliminary information. This way, the navigator can determine what kind of help is required, and whether it is a short- or long-term need. The navigator will then connect the woman with one of their funded agencies and also guide her to the best possible resources to ask for when calling the agency, as well as what information to share and what questions to ask. In short, United for Women acts as a community resource for social service agencies and a direct way to connect someone in need with a group that can help. The agencies handle all financial transactions (whether it is to a landlord or a mechanic, for example) and also provide education and training to help prevent the need for future financial assistance.
Since the program’s launch in 2012, more than 1,500 generous donors have given more than $1.5 million, which has helped approximately 1,400 area women. “Our goal is to invest in support for women and their families to help make the difference between living a healthy and productive life versus being on a path of continued long-term crisis and potential poverty,” said Kelly. “Our united support will be the bridge to a better future.”
For more information, visit www.unitedwaypittsburgh.org or contact Lisa Kelly at 412-456-6767 or Lisa.Kelly@uwac.org.