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United Way Blog

Empowering ALICE – United Way of Southeastern Michigan Promotes Financial Security

In Michigan, particularly in Detroit, many families face significant economic hardships that impact their ability to meet basic needs. Nearly 70% of households in Detroit live below the ALICE survival budget, meaning they struggle to afford essentials. ALICE refers to families that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained but Employed. Many essential workforce members earn just above the Federal Poverty Level but less than what it costs to make ends meet. This financial insecurity, exacerbated by systemic issues and historical discriminatory practices, is not merely a result of poor personal finance decisions but is rooted deeply in broader economic and policy frameworks.

United Way for Southeastern Michigan launched the Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge in 2022 to address these challenges in partnership with the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions. This initiative brought together over 60 organizations, combining their expertise and innovative ideas to improve financial stability in Detroit. The Family Mobility Savings Program (FMSP) was a vital component of this challenge, which received funding to pilot a program that supports 100 participants with financial activities and coaching. This six-month program includes a savings contribution of up to $1,000 for participants who meet specific goals, fostering greater economic empowerment and literacy.

The impact of these interventions is evident in the experiences of participants like Janeen Jackson, who was experiencing homelessness and struggling to make a way for her children and grandchildren. “Life wasn’t too easy for me, I’ve been to shelters, I’ve been living with people— but me, I never give up. I’m a resource person.” With the support of the FMSP, Janeen has been able to find stability and receive personal financial coaching. Her journey from reliance on shelters to financial stability highlights the transformative potential of targeted financial education and support. 

For the past 6 months, Ashley Strozier has provided personalized support to participants as the Family Mobility Coordinator. “I’ve been able to accomplish a lot in my time here, and I feel like I am just getting started,” she says, “but the thing I love the most about my position is being able to help people move from struggle to success. 

These initiatives are part of United Way’s commitment to creating financially secure communities where everyone can thrive. By addressing financial security through programs like the FMSP, United Way not only supports individual families in navigating economic challenges but also contributes to the broader goal of building resilient communities where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. This approach exemplifies United Way’s mission to mobilize communities to action, leveraging the strength of collaborative efforts to make a tangible difference in people’s lives.