© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Cincinnati Unveils Poverty-Fighting Initiative, Led By Families Themselves

Greater Cincinnati Foundation
Jesus Gerena, Vashti Rutledge, Ellen M. Katz, and Tara Noland unveil the Family Independence Initiative

A new approach to reducing childhood poverty is coming to Cincinnati – one that depends on the low-income families themselves to map their own way out of poverty.

Monday morning, officials unveiled the Cincinnati branch of the Family Independence Initiative (F.I.I.) at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The program is credited with helping reduce poverty in six other U.S. cities, including Boston and Oakland.

F.I.I. will have an enormous amount of financial resources to serve 500 families in the greater Cincinnati area over the next four years. The organization has $2.4 million to work with, including $1.8 million from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Another $600,000 will come from the Greenlight Fund, a national philanthropic organization.

Smaller grants were made by SC Ministry and The Mayerson Foundation.

Ellen Katz, president and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, said it is the largest single grant in the history of the foundation. She said the foundation made the commitment because it believes in the mission.

"It's unique; it doesn't duplicate what already exists in our region and it empowers families to lift themselves out of poverty, and we believe that is possible," Katz said. "We know that it is."

Vashti Rutledge, a Cincinnati native who will run F.I.I. here, said the organization will work with local social service agencies and others to identify the families who could benefit the most from the program and who are willing to take responsibility for doing what it necessary to improve their lives.

"Our initiative is led by families,'' Rutledge said. "It's their strength and resilience that shines through F.I.I. With families leading the way, Cincinnati can meet its true potential as a great and prosperous city for all."

Jesus Gerena, the CEO of F.I.I., said the program has shown concrete results in the other cities where it has been in operation.

"We're currently working with about 2,000 households across the country and, on average, these households are increasing their income by 20 percent, decreasing their subsidies by 60 percent, as well as increasing their savings from $100 to $1,000," Gerena said.