Moving people beyond the lines of poverty requires both external support and direct empowerment. It’s a process that involves the gradual rebuilding of their sense of personal dignity. Without this, people simply cannot find the mental fortitude required to overcome the immense hurdles to recovery that poverty throws in their path. Creating an organization that addresses this complex problem from various angles has taken more than two decades of evolution. Today, The River Fund New York has emerged as a recognized pioneer in the fight against hunger and poverty.
With a Mission “to feed and empower those we serve to move beyond the lines of poverty,” The River Fund began expanding services in 2009 to include Benefits Access Assistance. Why? There are over 40 different benefits and services that needy people can apply for—some government-sponsored, others from non-government sources. Yet, most people living in poverty don’t know about these programs, and when they do hear about them, many valuable hours are wasted sitting in numerous offices all over the City, instead of on more productive pursuits. For each program, clients must first get prescreened and wait to discover whether or not they qualify for the assistance, go through another lengthy process to apply, and then follow up with additional documentation. Finally, if approved, there are periodic re-certifications that take even more time.
All of this keeps many families in poverty because the “head of household” is forced to spend countless business hours on benefits enrollment processes instead of looking for employment. At The River Fund’s “Benefits Access Center” clients get one-stop prescreening, prequalification and enrollment in all of the benefits and services for which they qualify—thus saving needy families the expense and frustration of visiting dozens of different locations. Further, The River Fund stays involved and helps them maintain their benefits through the various periodic re-certifications. For many observers, The River Fund’s ability to provide this depth of service to the community as a volunteer-only organization was surprising.
Thus, in 2012, The Robin Hood Foundation invited The River Fund to submit a proposal through which the organization could transition from being volunteer-only to one that, at least partially, compensates its staff. The proposal was accepted and from October 1, 2012, some of The River Fund’s long-standing team-members began receiving stipends. Our model of being an organization made up of “community members who are determined against all odds to care for other community members” had finally received formal recognition from a major funder. This was a resounding victory for the concept of individual and community empowerment through the strengthening of human dignity. This concept is the simple foundation upon which all of our poverty-resistance work rests.
Empowerment Involves Many Services:
Our Benefits Access Center is open six days a week and helps needy families enroll in over 40 different benefits and services—without visiting dozens of different offices: that's empowerment. READ MORE.
Getting money back from the IRS is important—especially for people in need. We teach them how to do their taxes themselves, instead of paying a tax-preparer—that's empowerment. READ MORE.
At our site, we teach families to eat healthy on a limited budget and their kids learn how to prepare nutitious meals for themselves—that's empowerment for everyone in the family. READ MORE.
Sometimes empowerment means helping our clients keep more of their money for important expenses—by giving them meaningful items, like free new shoes. But it takes planning and storage space to equip ourselves for that. READ MORE.
The Mission of The River Fund New York is "to feed and empower those we serve to move beyond the lines of poverty." READ MORE.