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For United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia Director of Client Service Asha Jackson, being part of The Promise is all about making contact. It is about reaching people who do not know about all the benefits that they could be eligible for and helping them gain access to everything that they are entitled to.

“There is a lot of money left on the table from unspent tax credits and benefits, because enough folks don’t apply,” she says. “Our goal is to make sure we reach people who are unaware of the programs and benefits and help them apply.”

She notes the eligible group now includes people who were not in this position of poverty before the pandemic. Many of them haven’t had to apply for these kinds of benefits in the past. Now, she says, it is important to educate them about the benefits they are entitled to if their income has been affected by from the pandemic.

United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia is a multi-service social service agency. They serve all generations and various cultures within the South Philadelphia community to help alleviate poverty and empower and advocate for their clients. Their Client Services department, that Asha oversees, offers housing counseling for foreclosure and eviction prevention and first-time home buyer services, application assistance for federal, state, and local benefits including for utilities.

The organization works closely with Diversified Community Services under the Family Stability Challenge of The Promise.  Diversified offers a similar group of services.

SEAMAAC, also located in South Philadelphia, is also a part of the United Way partnership. They bring a different element in that they traditionally serve refugees and immigrants and can connect foreign language speakers with services. SEAMAAC has partnered with Jefferson Health to open the new Hansjorg Wyss Wellness Center (“Wyss”), located in the BOK Building. Wyss offers wellness & primary care for children, adults, and elders. The clinic is open to the entire South Philadelphia community, regardless of insurance.

The Promise also includes Community Legal Services, Unity in the Community, and Benefits Data Trust to supplement the work with additional benefits.

Community Legal Services will provide legal assistance and guidance for families who are denied a benefit and need extra help. Unity in the Community helps with community outreach and addressing food disparities.

Asha Jackson sees these efforts as the start of a gradual process to move low-income South Philadelphia families ahead.

“There are so many conversations among government and nonprofits about redirecting resources in our economy so that people are more economically secure,” she says.  “I would love to see a minimum wage increase so people don’t have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Debt reduction, particularly for student loans, is also very important. Moratoriums for evictions and foreclosures are ending soon, so additional safeguards will need to be put in place to prevent homelessness. We’re going to need innovation and collaboration between communities, non and for profits and government to create long-term sustainable solution to get us out of this economic crisis that has hurt so many in our Philadelphia communities.”

It is hard to have a conversation about poverty in Philadelphia without including the topic of racism. One in four Black Philadelphians and one in three Hispanic Philadelphians live in poverty. Jackson is hopeful that everything our country has experienced over the last year-plus could lead to something better.

“Let’s face it,” she says, systemic racism is woven within our country’s infrastructure and history and so it’s going to take a lot of effort and consciousness to alleviate it. The upheaval we have seen over the last year has been beneficial by making people more aware of these issues who were not before, and I’m hoping that momentum continues, and disadvantaged people are uplifted for true equality to be achieved.”

Southeast Communities is at 8th and Snyder. Its partner, Diversified, is 12 blocks to the west on 20th Street. Together, along with SEAMAAC, they cover a large section of South Philadelphia, from the river on the east side all the way to the Schuylkill Expressway on the west.

“We’re very excited to have this partnership, expanse and reach,” Jackson said. “Working together, we can make a bigger impact.”