In the fall of 2019, United Way of Northwest Indiana began its Level Up Program, which assists Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) residents to become more financially stable. The ALICE population lives paycheck-to-paycheck and often does not have savings or an emergency fund to give them the financial security they need.
United Way seeks to help ALICE households make ends meet by providing wraparound services that will help break barriers so they can have better financial stability. Level Up participants are guided by Family Career Navigators who serve as cheerleaders, guides and accountability partners.
Chief Impact Officer Anicia Kosky shared that the first step is simply committing to their desire to improve their own financial wellbeing. From there, clients choose their direction, and the Level Up team helps them reach their goals.
“The Level Up Program is built on a custom level to fit the client's needs,” said Kosky. “The client is directing the path in which we go related to what they want for their future. The program is different because our navigators are truly navigating. They help the client circumvent the barriers that have held them back, but they won’t do the work for them. 90% of the program is sweat equity. We're just here to knock the barriers out of the way and give support to get where they want to go.”
Kosky noted that many program participants are struggling single mothers who need guidance to forge a better path for their families. When they join the Level Up Program, they are able to break through the barriers holding them back and look for higher-paying, good-quality jobs to create a better life for themselves.
“We have several clients that are training to be medical assistants, medical coders, truck drivers, welders and more. The clients picked those fields. Many of them accomplishing what they never thought they could do before,” Kosky said. “Our goal isn’t just to help them obtain a better paying job, but to change the trajectory of their lives and that of the next generation in their household.”
Since its implementation, the Level Up program has helped over 200 people focus on the changes they want to make, reach financial stability, become homeowners, and break the generational poverty chain by teaching their kids what they have learned from the program.
United Way ALICE research and community conversations about how to help this niche population led to the creation of the Level Up Program. For more information about the Level Up Program and to see if you qualify to be in the program, visit https://unitedwaynwi.org/level-up.