Report: Boston nonprofit more effective at helping low-income families meet financial and career goals

BOSTON – A recent evaluation conducted by the Center for Social Policy (CSP) at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, funded by The Boston Foundation, found that an asset building program administered locally by Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP), a Boston-based nonprofit, outperformed the national average by almost every measure.

The Family Self-Sufficiency Program is a federal program that allows renters with a Housing Choice Section 8 Voucher to enroll in one-on-one coaching to set and achieve their own financial and career goals.  Participants also have an escrow account into which the program administrator makes deposits as the participants’ income increases.

CSP reviewed five years of MBHP program data and compared it to national outcomes. According to the CSP’s findings, MBHP’s outcomes surpass the national average on almost every count. This includes higher enrollment rates (14% vs. 5%), higher levels of escrow accumulation ($13,598 vs. $5,607), and lower termination rates in the program (17% vs. 37%).

“These outcomes illustrate how MBHP’s FSS program is achieving the goals recently stated by the Baker-Polito administration to advance economic growth by expanding workforce development efforts and connecting people with economic opportunities,” said MBHP Executive Director Chris Norris. “We are proud of the accomplishments of our participants and happy to see the hard work of our staff and partners acknowledged in this report.”

The success of MBHP’s program gave the researchers a unique opportunity to assess the successes and challenges families with low incomes face when trying to advance in the labor market. They found that barriers in the labor market, such as low wages, lack of career ladders, and discrimination, held back even the most successful families. While the researchers found that obtaining a degree or certificate can improve a participant’s job prospects, financing for education is challenging with many participants relying on student loans. Access to quality health care and community involvement were also identified as important factors.

“The FSS evaluation highlights the importance of a holistic understanding of life events concurrently with workforce and asset building efforts,” said Susan R. Crandall, director of the Center for Social Policy. “Social policies do not exist in a vacuum.”

The report also underscores the importance of practitioners partnerships to connect participants with resources that are most helpful for their unique situations. One example was MBHP’s alliance with Compass Working Capital, a nonprofit that provides expert financial coaching from for recently-enrolled FSS participants. MBHP’s partnership with CONNECT in Chelsea was also very effective, allowing MBHP to co-locate and meet participants close to their homes, while connecting them to a variety of programs and services available to them locally.

The report will be released on February 9 at a forum and Q&A at MBHP’s office at 125 Lincoln Street. Registration is available online at http://bit.ly/FSS-report-2016.



  
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