Marin Community Foundation Launches $15 Million Anti-Poverty Initiative

The Marin Community Foundation in Novato, California, has announced a five-year, $15 million initiative — one of four being implemented under the foundation's new strategic plan — designed to help low-income families break the cycle of poverty and become financially stable.

According to the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, nearly twenty-three thousand local families have trouble paying for basic needs such as housing, food, and health care. "We hope over the next few years, the programs and services of this initiative will help local residents receive support and gain skills that can last a lifetime," said MCF president and CEO Thomas Peters. "Not only will they benefit now, during a dramatic period of economic stress, but they can remain more secure during the future downturns that are sure to come."

In partnership with the San Francisco-based Earned Assets Resource Network (EARN), MCF will help families establish "individual development accounts" to be used solely for education, to purchase a home, or to start a business. The families' personal contributions to these savings accounts will be matched with foundation dollars, support from individual donors, and contributions from designated federal funds.

Participants in the program also will receive assistance in acquiring better-paying jobs, including help with interview and job search techniques as well as computer training. In addition, MCF will partner with the Women's Initiative to help participants learn about business plans, pricing, and marketing; with community banks to develop low-cost products and services such as no-fee check cashing, microenterprise loans, and counseling about home ownership; and with several Marin nonprofits working to help families meet emergency needs as they work toward long-term self-sufficiency.

"The high cost of living in Marin makes it especially difficult for the working poor to move out of poverty," said Peters. "A parent with two children needs an annual income of $68,000 to be regarded as fully self-sufficient.�But since that would require the earnings equivalent of working four minimum-wage jobs, many Marin families can't reach that goal."