We’ve spent January – National Poverty Awareness Month – reflecting on the complexities of poverty. Breaking the cycle of poverty cannot be done by “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”. One needs boots and bootstraps before such a thing can even be attempted. Poverty is often generational, communal, and cyclical. Folks in underserved, disadvantaged, and marginalized communities feel the effects of poverty the most deeply. One medical bill, one car accident, one rent increase, and one unexpected circumstance can undo progress in the blink of an eye.

An electric bill shouldn’t force a parent to choose between keeping the lights on or putting a meal on the table. A community college student should be able to stay the course and not drop out because expenses are too much. No older adult should have to sleep on a sidewalk because rent is too high. 

Here’s a breakdown of three ways we’re working to combat poverty: 

Utilities Assistance

Approximately 1/3 of SoCal residents live in poverty. In partnership with Southern California Edison and SoCalGas®, we provide one-time assistance to households struggling to pay their utilities bills. Since 1983, this program has provided over 600,000 households with utility assistance—16,000 homes each year. We’re so happy to share that a program participant who recently lost SSI benefits and lives with a physical disability was able to pay their gas AND electric bill in full. This client had been struggling to make ends meet and felt they could no longer continue relying on help from family. That’s why this Utilities Assistance program exists – to alleviate financial burden and the subsequent stress it inflicts on people who need it. 

Community College Success Fund

In California, the community college graduation rates for Latino and Black students stand at 14% and 9%, respectively. In contrast, 17% of white and 21% of Asian students achieve this milestone in the same timeframe. The impact on students and their families’ long-term earning power potential and pathways to generational wealth building declines when they cannot graduate or transfer from a community college. Our goal is to help eliminate economic and systemic barriers that stand in the way of graduating or transferring. 

We’re excited to announce that The Student Success Fund will launch this spring! It’s a program providing financial support to LACCD students facing hardship that may negatively impact their academic success. 

man giving water to pet of unhoused person

Older Adult Housing

Older unhoused residents account for 72% of deaths among those experiencing homelessness.  Solving senior homelessness is a matter of life and death. Thankfully, voters feel the same. Measure ULA is a property tax valued at $5m+, and its revenue funds programs for affordable housing development and homelessness prevention. More specifically, ULA provides direct rental assistance for seniors and persons with disabilities.  

Check out our website to learn more about our work. There are so many opportunities to get involved and help make a difference – we hope you’ll join us!  


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