One of the pillars of our Springboard model is that we believe all people deserve to be the authors of their own lives and one’s destiny should not be determined by their race, gender, or class. Over the last five years of Springboard’s existence we have taken time to sit down with our residents and to listen to what they have told us they need in focus groups, one-on-one conversations, and round table discussions. Much of this was presented last year in our policy white paper, Becoming Visible, which we released with New America last fall.
But through all the conversations, we kept hearing the same thing. Families need more cash. A minimum wage job simply does not provide enough income to support a family, and the system for obtaining supplementary benefits is stressful, dehumanizing, and time-consuming. Our mission at Springboard is to help families reach their goals in life, work, and school, but often our families are so busy trying to survive that they do no have time to set those goals.
That is why we have started partnering with the Economic Security Project to begin The Magnolia Mother’s Trust. Under this new initiative, 15 Springboard families in Jackson, Mississippi will be given $1000 cash on a monthly basis, no strings attached, for 12 months straight. For most of our families who make an average of $11,030 annually, this will more than double their income. Families will be free to use this money in whatever way they see fit to best meet their financial needs. We have been saying since the beginning that we believe it is our families who know best what they need, and we see this as an opportunity to put some tangible action behind those words.
While there have been several initiatives around a guaranteed income worldwide, this will be the first that specifically targets extremely low-income families headed by an African American female living in affordable housing in the United States. We are starting small, so we can learn alongside our families, what cash assistance can really do because the truth is, we don’t know. But what we do know is that in focus groups and conversations, our families have told us again and again that that this is what they need, so to live into our radically, resident-driven philosophy, we are giving them what they have asked for.
In addition to the cash, women in the pilot program will also receive peer support and have the opportunity to participate in ongoing leadership opportunities designed to provide respite and external support. What’s more, we recognize the long-term trauma that is present for our families and will also provide individual coaching and counseling to help disrupt the scarcity ideology that so many families have had to adopt as a basic survival technique. We have always believed in the need to provide holistic support for families at Springboard and we plan to continue to honor that in this new initiative.
If we offer our families a little bit of breathing room, will they be able to dream about something a little bigger? If financial survival is not always top of mind, would community leadership and activism become a real possibility? While we can’t definitively answer these questions right now, we certainly want to find out. And most importantly, we want to give our residents the opportunity to choose for themselves what they want to do with their time and income, offering them the same dignity and freedom that wealthy Americans are privy to each day.
We would love to have you join us in this work and partner with us in giving this opportunity to our families. You can also donate directly to The Magnolia Mother’s Trust here. And feel free to reach out with any questions or to learn more about how you can come alongside this work. For the last five years, Springboard has been trying to take bold, innovative approaches to breaking cycles of generational poverty, and we are grateful that you have been willing to try new things with us in the past and hope you’ll join us in our newest initiative today.