Government programs designed to help underprivileged people often work best when carried out in cooperation with nonprofit organizations.
These groups understand the needs of the individuals they serve. So allowing them to oversee how assistance is delivered can benefit all parties.
This has been the case with some new Watertown residents.
Michael Larrabee became a single parent in 2014. His wife took everything they owned and abandoned him and their daughter, Bria.
“The two have struggled to find a place to call home,” according to a story published Sept. 14 by the Watertown Daily Times. “At one point, they jumped from couch to couch or sometimes stayed in his car.”
Mr. Larrabee was until recently living in a small apartment in Brownville. He then received the news he had been waiting to hear for a while: He and Bria were getting their own home on South Pleasant Street.
He was the first person selected for the Thousand Islands Area Habitat for Humanity’s Pathway to Home Ownership program. This project received $300,000 through the city’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative.
The Development Authority of the North Country, Neighbors of Watertown and the city have jointly purchased residences in distressed areas. The objective has been to rehabilitate these houses and sell them to low-income families.
Watertown was awarded $1 million two years ago through the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance; the United Way of Northern New York was chosen to administer the anti-poverty grant. Aside from Pathway to Home Ownership, the other programs established were Bridges Out of Poverty, training mentors about how poverty affects people; Wheels to Work, offering up to 60 vehicles for people who lack the transportation they need to get to their jobs; and Employee Resource Network, teaching companies how to keep workers who struggle with their jobs due to poverty.
There were delays in Mr. Larrabee moving into his Watertown home, but they seem to have been resolved. He now has a good job with the city’s Department of Public Works; he recently received a promotion to light equipment operator, the Times story reported.
And this isn’t the only good news.
“Sherrie L. Weise, 50, is one of those other first-time homeowners through the ESPRI program, which also includes helping people climb out of poverty, find a job and provide a vehicle to get to that job,” according to the story. “She and her 3-year-old black lab mix, Molly, moved into a century-old, three-bedroom house at 206 N. Rutland St. this summer. The program provided $65,000 to purchase the home and will pay for its repairs, which includes a new furnace and boiler, roof work, installing siding and 18 windows.”
Making social service programs work effectively is complicated. There are many factors to consider in assessing how people will do given their circumstances.
And this is where the partnerships between governmental entities and non-profit groups proves most useful. Combined, they have the expertise to craft programs that will help people achieve meaningful goals, such as owning their first home.
We have from time to time on this page been critical of some of the financial decisions made by the city — and, we believe, for good reason. But we’re just as pleased to point out when officials get it right.
The anti-poverty initiative has been a worthwhile endeavor, and it’s having positive results. This certainly isn’t going to eliminate poverty in our area. But it’s a way to assist people trapped in dire situations move toward becoming more productive citizens, and we commend everyone involved.