Phoenix Family is a non-profit organization based out of Kansas City, MO providing social services and support to residents living in low-income housing communities. The organization serves 35 communities, in 14 cities, and 3 states (MO, KS, IA). One such community is Ferguson, Missouri’s Northwinds Apartments, located within one of St. Louis County’s poorest census tracts. Among households in Ferguson, 97% are classified as low-income and extremely low-income. In 2013, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that the Ferguson area contained more Section 8 renters than any other region of the state.
The American Reinvestment Company grant awarded to Phoenix Family was used to establish the Road to Empowerment program at the Northwinds Apartments. Road to Empowerment, an onsite job readiness program for the 90 acre housing development’s 1,600 residents, connects Northwinds to vital resources in the community. In establishing the Road to Empowerment, Phoenix Family forged partnerships with the St. Louis Area Training and Education (SLATE) and Building Union Diversity (BUD) programs.
“The purpose of our programming is to help build up levels of self-sufficiency. Most of the residents lack resources and everyday life skills. We’re trying to help them find better employment through instruction on resume writing and job finding,” said Phoenix Family Director of Programs and Facilities, Jack Cornelison. “The support we’ve received from ARC has been incredible and it is the only way we could’ve gotten this project off the ground while having the level of success that we’ve had.”
Members of the Northwinds community were actively recruited into the Road to Empowerment program, and residents worked one on one with instructors to catch up on remedial math and reading skills in preparation for entry exams for BUD and SLATE. To date, two Northwinds residents have successfully joined the pre-apprenticeship program with the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades council, and the staff at Phoenix Family believe they will bring enthusiasm for the program back to the community.
Phoenix Family’s services and support provide a much needed lifeline for a community in distress. With an average household income level of less than $12k, many Northwinds residents lack access to basic hygiene supplies and food. Phoenix Family supplies the community with on-site food pantries, clothing, hygiene products, furniture, childcare services, and emergency assistance. Most of the families at Northwinds live in a state of crisis and for employment services to be effective families must be stabilized through having food, housing, transportation and safety.