One in four Erie City residents - and almost one in six Erie County residents live in poverty. This has a detrimental overall impact on the community's quality of life and economic growth. The underlying philosophy of Erie Together is that poverty is a community issue that requires a comprehensive community-wide response inclusive of all sectors and residents.
Erie Together is a movement including participants from a wide cross-sector of organizations and residents who are Working together to make the Erie region a community of opportunity where everyone can learn, work and thrive. Mercyhurst University, GECAC and United Way of Erie County serve as the catalyst for this movement.
Erie Together consists of Dialogue to Action Teams, Family Action Teams, Countywide Action Teams and a Steward Team.
- Dialogue To Action Teams (DACTS) bring together community members within specific city neighborhoods and county areas to engage in dialogue leading to a concrete action plan to address the needs of residents and improve their community.
- Getting Ahead entails a mentoring experience for low-income families to assist families in moving toward self-sufficiency and work towards improving their own community.
- Countywide Action teams work to align resources and address outcomes identified as necessary to achieve the community's aspiration developed at community forums, attended by a diverse group of citizens from across the county. The four action teams are:
- Childhood readiness and success, pre-K through 3rd grade
- Aligning education to careers, 4th grade through college
- Individual and family stability
- Balancing economic and workforce development
- A Steward Team comprised of cross-sector leaders helps guide the initiative and focuses on community-wide systemic change to reduce poverty and achieve the community aspiration. An outreach approach will be developed to assist in continuing to solicit input from across the county.
GECAC's primary responsibility to the project is the Getting Ahead component. Getting Ahead Teams are group mentoring experiences that are designed to help individual families make plans and move from dependency to self-sufficiency. To date 46 families from 5 different neighborhoods have participated in the program. These families have completed the Getting Ahead in a Just Getting by World curriculum to prepare them to become leaders of their team. Participants are teamed with mentors and a GECAC staff member in an "intentional befriending" experience. Mentors are trained in Bridges Out of Poverty to help them to understand their families and the situations in which they live.