Poverty is a complex problem. There is no single factor that causes it, no individual approach that can solve it.
In order to address poverty in our region, the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative has spearheaded an approach acknowledging the many factors that cause and sustain poverty and bringing the entire community together to take them on. This approach, known as the collective impact model, calls on institutions large and small to work together to reach a set of shared goals.
Working with the entire community to identify the root causes of poverty, RMAPI aims to create better coordination of services and advocates for effective anti-poverty policies to address these factors. RMAPI sits at the front of the boat, ensuring that everyone is rowing together in the same direction.
There has already been significant progress toward these collective goals. In early 2015, RMAPI formed work groups of local stakeholders to address the major drivers of poverty in our community. After a deep investigation of areas including housing, jobs, the justice system and education, these groups developed a list of 33 recommendations for addressing poverty-related barriers.
RMAPI also brought hundreds of community members together—from people living in poverty to agencies working to end it—to develop a set of guiding principles that will serve as a foundation to the work to end poverty. This effort identified three key principles—building and supporting our community, addressing structural racism and addressing trauma.
Here are some of the community’s major accomplishments in response to these guiding principles and work group recommendations as well as RMAPI’s goal to create systemic change.
Adult mentoring program
The first implementation strategy from RMAPI addresses the need for mentoring services for individuals and families seeking to achieve economic self-sufficiency. There are two programs under the adult mentoring umbrella—Bridges to Success, which connects individuals to a professional mentor, and Family Independence Initiative, which connects families to a group of peers working together in creating change. Both approaches help participants identify socio-economic needs and develop a specialized plan of goals and action to achieve them.
The programs are administered by Catholic Family Center, Action for a Better Community and Community Place of Greater Rochester. There are a total of 52 individuals enrolled in the programs—13 in Bridges to Success and 39 in the Family Independence Initiative—along with 12 others who have been referred to alternative services to help reach self-sufficiency. An AmeriCorps door-to-door recruitment campaign has reached 200 residents who have provided their contact information for follow-up.
City of Rochester/RTS Vanpool project
The RMAPI Transportation work group created a recommendation to provide better access to the area's public transportation, and the City of Rochester/RTS Vanpool project addresses that need. This project connects Rochester residents to jobs that may be out of reach of public transportation through the creation of van pools.
Two vans have been running since the program’s launch, with one bringing six riders to del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo and another with nine riders employed at Pactiv Packaging in Canandaigua. Many of those involved said they would have no other way to get to work were it not for the van pool. The project will expand in fall 2017 with $300,000 grant funding received from the New York State Department of Transportation.
Rochester Market Driven Community Corporation (MDCC Corp.)
Led by the city of Rochester, this program aims to create network of community-based, employee-owned businesses that provide employment for individuals facing the most significant barriers. This initiative follows the example of Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperative Initiative, which has created close to 120 jobs in some of the city’s most disinvested neighborhoods.
In February, MDDC Corp. launched its first business, a green energy construction subcontractor called ENEROC. The company provides a source of reliable, trained labor to help prime contractors take on larger projects. The company currently employs three individuals with plans to grow to between 9 and 14 in its first year, with the entry-level general election construction jobs paying between $12-15 per hour plus benefits.
MDCC Corp. follows a recommendation from the RMAPI Jobs and Workforce Development work group to support local businesses and increase available jobs.
Kiva Rochester
In an effort to promote local small businesses, this program provides zero percent interest crowdfunded loans to help entrepreneurs looking to start or grow a business. The city of Rochester’s partnership with Kiva allows borrowers to receive loans of up to $10,000 from online lenders, and qualifying businesses are eligible to receive matching funds from the Rochester Economic Development Corporation. The city is also building a network of partner institutions and community members who can offer further help to these small businesses.
Since Kiva Rochester’s launch in August 2016, the program has awarded 31 loans to local entrepreneurs totaling $164,525. Of these borrowers, 75 percent would likely not be considered creditworthy at traditional financial institutions due to low credit scores, lacking collateral assets and low incomes. To date, 41 percent of the loans have gone to women-owned businesses and 78 percent have gone to African-American or Hispanic business owners. 
The Kiva Rochester program follows a recommendation from the RMAPI Jobs and Workforce Development work group to build neighborhood wealth by promoting micro-lending programs.
Genesee Brewery
When North American Breweries Inc. announced a $49.1 million investment to create a world-class brewery and beer destination at Genesee Brewery, the project answered one of the major recommendations from RMAPI’s Jobs and Workforce Development work groups to address job needs for the working poor and set aside a certain percentage of job openings for people living in poverty. Of the 128 new jobs the project will create, 64 of the positions were set aside for people affected by poverty.
Clearwater Organic Farms, LLC
The nation’s largest hydroponic commercial greenhouse announced plans to build a 15-acre facility in the Eastman Business Park, creating 137 new full-time jobs with a total project cost of close to $50 million. Of those positions, 55 are reserved for veterans or those who are underemployed. This development responds to recommendations from RMAPI’s Jobs and Workforce Development work group to address job needs for the working poor and set aside a certain percentage of job openings for people living in poverty.
Strengthening Working Families Initiative
Rochester Rehabilitation Center is partnering with local employers and community organizations to create access to educational and training institutions for parents with dependent children at home. This program also supports their career advancement in demand industries.
A total of 51 individuals have been enrolled in the program, including 30 who were unemployed upon entering the program and 39 are receiving benefits of some kind (SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, SSD, etc.).
The program aligns with a recommendation from the RMAPI Jobs and Workforce Development work group to provide training and support that matches the working poor with willing employers seeking to fill job openings.
Rochester Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG)
Administered by Action for a Better Community, this program provides education and training to TANF recipients and other low-income individuals for occupations in the healthcare field. The program focuses on jobs that pay well and are expected to either experience labor shortages or be in high demand.
The HPOG program, funded by an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will work with 1,500 local residents to achieve self-sufficiency and find high-paying jobs in the health care field.
The program aligns with a recommendation from the RMAPI Jobs and Workforce Development work group to work with local employers to address job needs for the working poor.
Poverty Impact Statement
The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council worked with RMAPI to incorporate the guiding principles into the funding application process for those seeking state funding. The council created a Poverty Impact Statement for funding applicants to define how their project aligns with poverty reduction goals.
The council oversees the distribution of a $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative grant awarded in 2015, and has identified poverty reduction as one of its chief goals.
Rochester Area Community Foundation
The board of directors for the Rochester Area Community Foundation formally adopted the RMAPI guiding principles as guidance in the organization’s grantmaking and community leadership.
The Community Foundation has also partnered with the Wilson Foundation on a collaborative funding model for trauma-informed care. The agencies released a request for proposals that recommended the RMAPI guiding principles and made collaborative funding decisions for trauma-informed capacity building for eight human services agencies that serve more than 150,000 individuals in total.
These agencies will use grant funding to hire a professional consultant for organizational change to become trauma-informed. The agencies are also part of a year-long learning network co-funded by the foundations and conducted by Coordinated Care Services Inc. The collaborative funding—$244,000 in total—also includes a third-party evaluator assessing organizational change and client impact.
RochesterWorks! and the Monroe County/Rochester Workforce Development Board
RochesterWorks! has taken several steps to incorporate recommendations from the RMAPI work groups to help people living in poverty obtain and maintain steady employment and achieve self-sufficiency.
In cooperation with the Finger Lakes and GLOW Workforce Development Boards, RochesterWorks! selected advanced manufacturing and healthcare as priority industry sectors for the development of career pathways for new and transitioning workers. The partners have worked to align local workforce board policy and develop outside grant revenue with these sector strategies.
RochesterWorks! has also worked with the Monroe County/Rochester Workforce Development Board and committees to revise training and supportive service policies in order to dedicate a greater percentage of funding to the needs of low-income individuals. This effort includes coordinating workforce development resources among the approximately 15 one-stop partner entities to create a common referral system, cross-train staff on eligibility for services available through all partners and maximize the use of supportive services through all partner programs.
Raise the Age
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and ensuring that young people who commit non-violent crimes receive intervention and evidence-based treatment.
This legislation follows recommendations from the RMAPI Justice System work group to address institutional and structural racism and to offer crisis services as an alternative to arrest.
Workforce Disparities Report
In late 2016 the Mayor’s Office of Innovation was tasked with completing an analysis of the local workforce in Monroe County with a focus on workers struggling to make ends meet. The report is set to be released at the July RMAPI Steering Committee meeting. 

Want to help move RMAPI's work forward? Start by endorsing the principles of community building, racial equity and trauma responsiveness that can be found in the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative Guiding Principles Report. These principles form the foundation for our work ahead. To endorse the principles just click here, sign the pledge and then put them into action. Then encourage 10 people and 1 organization to do the same.

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