Poverty is not a singular condition. It is a collection of
situational roadblocks that keep people from living full and
prosperous lives. With nearly a quarter of Philadelphians
living in poverty, Episcopal Community Services’ goal is not
to merely get these numbers down. It is to lift our neighbors
up. It is about the names and faces behind these figures.
Not too long ago, Janira felt stuck in a day-to-day grind that was starting take its toll on her overall well-being. She works as a bartender Thursdays through Sundays. On these nights, she does not get to sleep until 3:00am and, on school mornings, must wake up at 6:00am to get her son ready for school. She lives paycheck-to-paycheck, so bartending is not her desired
long-term career path. According to Janira, it was time to “make moves.”
Then she learned about MindSet, Episcopal Community Services’ new program. Janira was accepted into MindSet’s inaugural cohort in January 2019. In MindSet, motivated individuals like Janira are coached to meet their goals toward stability—and in all aspects of life, from family to finances—so that upward economic mobility can be achieved.
A few years ago, Janira was in college working toward a degree in radiology. She later shifted her focus from education to parenting after her son was born. Today, Janira’s ultimate goal is to establish a more stable life for herself and her son. Now that he is a second grader, she feels ready to focus on personal advancement again. “It’s time to get back to me,” she said. “What benefits me, will benefit him. MindSet gives me that little push.”
MindSet participants receive one-on-one coaching from masters’ level social workercoaches. Unlike other approaches, MindSet uses a long-term roadmap that supports the whole person so that, within five years, they have attained a satisfying career, at a living wage with benefits and with longterm advancement opportunities.
Janira needed to earn a degree in order to secure a career that would provide comfort for her family. Janira knew she needed to earn a degree in order to fulfill that goal. She considered her strengths and interests and evaluated the job market.
She decided on a career in education.
Janira researched class schedules based on her availability. Encouraged by her MindSet coach, Nikki, Janira established a savings plan to purchase a new laptop and pay for classes. Not before long, Janira was ready to enroll in the Community College of Philadelphia. As she describes it, “MindSet helps me problem-solve and gives me goal clarity.” On her way to a fulfilling career, Janira attends classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays while her son is in school, too. Mondays are her days for other obligations, like doctor
appointments, errands, and, of course, meeting with her MindSet coach or
other MindSet participants. “It’s helped me get unstuck.” she said.
People and families from all walks of life come to Episcopal Community Services for a helping hand. They have strengths, hopes, and dreams, just like you. Mothers experiencing homelessness also want their children to sleep safe and sound. People unable to afford college aspire for work that makes them proud. Parents want their children to grow up to be valued members of the community.
No matter how old you are, where you live, who raised you, or how much or little you or your family has, everybody is on the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, our participants have to work harder for less. ECS is helping people see that this pursuit is within reach.
Goals aren’t prescribed to participants, nor are the steps they need to take to achieve them. Contrary to standard case management, in coaching, participants assess their own lives and make personal incremental changes with their coaches watching and encouraging. Using a tool called the Bridge to Prosperity, people are able to see where they are in
life, identify where they want to be, and problem-solve ways of getting there. Depicted on the Bridge is what has been identified as five key pillars in life: Family Stability; Health and Well-being; Financial Management; Education and Training; and Employment and Career Management.
With this tool, participants are able to get a clearer sense of how different life barriers relate so that they can break them down to move upward across each pillar. The Bridge is what helped Janira identify the first area of her life to focus on improving: Education and Training. “You have to find your own will and power for change,” Janira said. “MindSet really helped me get back on track. [My coach] gives me the motivation I need … that
push I need to keep achieving my goals.”
ECS is the first social service agency in the City of Philadelphia to adopt this coaching model, a revolutionary approach proven to help people and families achieve upward economic mobility. The practice, and the Bridge, were developed by our partner, Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath), a Boston-based institution. Their groundbreaking model enables people to elevate themselves and their families toward upward economic mobility.
Backed by science and results, this method is spreading across the country and around the world, being adopted by organizations and governments reassessing their approach to service. From Boston to the State of Washington to the Netherlands, there is a growing network of providers shifting to create change that lasts. And now, that change is here, at home, in Philadelphia. In supporting ECS, you are supporting
Janira and so many others like her as they work to make their dreams come true.