Food. Education. Freedom. Legacy
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Help Portland Families Plan for Both Short and Long Term Impacts of COVID-19
Birch Community Services' mission is to provide a community where people can be responsible and accountable for meeting their basic needs, and to equip them with tools to overcome financial difficulty. During our current pandemic, it is crucial for families to have a long term financial plan.
Families are provided with food, clothing, and household items to relieve immediate financial and emotional stress related to basic needs. Our Families meet one-on-one with our Financial Literacy Manager, to make an individual plan of how to cope with COVID-19 in both the short and long term.
A job alone doesn't solve poverty; 40% of working families are one paycheck away from being unable to meet basic, monthly expenses, electricity, gas bills, etc. Depending on the wage and the cost of living, the fact that someone is working doesn't mean they are thriving. In the Portland Metro Area, there are about 120,000 people who are working, but still can’t make ends meet, and 70 percent of Oregon’s poor families are working. The Oregon Center for Public Policy reported more than a half-million Oregonians suffered from food insecurity in 2018, meaning they either went hungry or didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.
Birch Community Services (BCS) created a pathway to financial stability that serves as an alternative to government assistance. Instead, BCS receives and redistributes market surplus products such as food and clothing from partners and provides for primary needs with an accountability system to help its program participants achieve their financial goals. With the money they save on these crucial staples, BCS families are able to pursue goals that move them away from the bankruptcies, evictions and foreclosures that threaten them, and on to financial stability. BCS teaches financial classes where participants learn about budgeting and saving. Program graduates reduce their monthly debt and increase their emergency savings. In addition to operational efficiency and reach, accountability has been a key component to BCS's impact on the roots of poverty in Portland over the last 25 years. They believe that true charity comes from empowering each individual to restore his or her capacity to be self-sufficient, and that the most effective way to accomplish this process is within the context of a community in which participants work together to attain their goals.
BCS is a brilliant example of an effective, sustainable nonprofit. In 2018 alone, over 800 families received help and 536 1-on-1 family meetings occurred, resulting in 65 families permanently transitioning out of poverty. BCS served 4,090 people total and received and redistributed 9,470,00 lbs of products and clothing from 250 food growers, processors, distributors, and retailers like Costco. Through meetings and exit surveys, they've identified 7 top outcomes of their Sustainable Families Program; consistently tracking budgeting/spending to get current on bills, creating an emergency fund, paying more on debt, saving more each month, living with and by a financial plan, relieving stress at home and communicating better about money as a family. For the first quarter of those who have transitioned from their program, there was a 34% decrease in overall debt during their tenure at BCS and a 64% increase in overall savings during their tenure at BCS.