ALICE does live here

Published 10:31 am Thursday, November 14, 2019

The United Way wants you to know that ALICE does live here — and is likely a friend or neighbor.

Alice may not be her name, but ALICE is real, and the United Way of Prince Edward County recently joined the other state and national chapters in reminding our friends, neighbors and partners of just how real the need is and how many are in need.

ALICE is a United Way project that focuses on community members who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed. ALICE Awareness Week was Nov. 4-8.

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“ALICE households earn more than the official U.S. poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living — in other words, households who are working in needed jobs that don’t pay enough to afford the basics necessities, including housing, food, child care, health care and transportation,” notes a statement from United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley. “Examples are child care providers, home health aides, mechanics, retail workers, service providers, store clerks and office assistants. ALICE can be a new graduate just starting out, a young family or a retiree. Some households become ALICE due to an unforeseen life event: a life-altering health diagnosis, job loss, or family crisis such as a death or divorce. ALICE often doesn’t qualify for governmental aid or social service programs, so they are virtually invisible to the system, their struggle unseen and unknown.”

Prince Edward’s United Way has been partnering with the other United Ways in Virginia and across the country for the past several years as part of a growing effort to identify fellow community members who may need some assistance and to determine ways to assist them as we work to improve the quality of life in our community.

Locally, the depth of the problem isn’t news to the United Way’s partners.

“This is an interesting initiative,” said Ellery Sedgwick, president of the board of directors for FACES, an organization whose mission is to provide emergency and supplementary food to qualified residents of its service area. “FACES serves families or individuals with a household income of up to 150% of the federal poverty level, the same as USDA. The majority receive other forms of government assistance. I’m sure some of our clients fit the ALICE profile.”

Sam Rabon, director of resource development and marketing for Piedmont Habitat for Humanity, agreed that they, too, serve the ALICE population.

“Because we serve individuals and families whose income is between 30-80% of the Area Median Income, almost all of our partner families meet the definition of ALICE,” he said. “Along with almost half of Prince Edward County, these are our friends and neighbors whose income does not meet a bare-bones budget. Since housing costs are one of the largest monthly budget needs, we believe the difference made by safe, decent, affordable housing can make a tremendous impact in their overall financial health.”

Indeed, Rucker Snead, president of the United Way, recently informed the group’s 24 partners that promotion of ALICE and the various efforts to address the need is necessary.

“This effort will help make people aware of our community’s needs and the role (local) programs play in improving lives,” he said.