Unless you work daily in the world of nonprofits or government assistance, or you have benefited from those programs, this is a term you may never have encountered before.
The Cliff Effect.
The Women’s Foundation of Colorado describes what this obstacle means for Colorado residents who are trying to work toward economic independence:
Currently in Colorado, public assistance for the working poor isn’t designed to allow women the opportunity to incrementally increase their wages to work toward self-sufficiency. In fact, as a family’s earnings increase and they rise above the official poverty level, they begin to lose eligibility for tax credits, childcare subsidies, health care coverage and food stamps even though they are not yet self-sufficient. So although parents may be working and earning more, their families can’t reach financial security. This is called the Cliff Effect, and it results in many women refusing pay increases, forcing them to live a life of dependence.
This is an issue that affects Colorado residents like Work Options for Women students. I-News Network at Rocky Mountain PBS reported its findings in “Losing Ground,” which expounded on analysis of “six decades of reports from the U.S. Census Bureau to track the state’s poverty rates, family income, high school and college graduation rates and home ownership.” The PBS segment on the Cliff Effect illustrates just one aspect of the difficulties families faces in breaking the cycle of poverty and achieving self-sufficiency. Check out the video below to learn more, or visit the PBS site for this enlightening report.
Additional resources // Overlooked and Undercounted // Self-sufficiency: An Illusive Vision
Not many of us are forced to make a life-or-death decision in our lifetimes, but Jasmine had to do just that. The mother of four had been in an abusive relationship since she married at age 14 and knew that if she did not leave her husband soon, his abuse would eventually lead to her death. Jasmine matter-of-factly states, “I had to leave or I was going to die.” Fearing for her life, she made the difficult decision to leave the marriage and fled with nothing more than her four children and $200 she had taken from her husband. That money did not last long – 2 nights in a hotel to be exact – and Jasmine soon found herself in various homeless shelters around the Denver area. Though she wanted to work to support her family, Jasmine had been a stay-at-home mom for 14 years and lacked the work experience and skills necessary to find a decent paying job.
After expressing her frustrations to her TANF manager, Jasmine was asked a simple but important question: what do you like to do. Jasmine said she liked to cook, a skill she picked up from her own kitchen while preparing family meals. Recognizing that Jasmine would be a perfect fit for WOW, her TANF manager suggested she attend an orientation to learn more about the program.
When Jasmine joined the WOW program, she faced many obstacles in her life. She still lacked stable housing and childcare, and her children were not enrolled in school. Her WOW Case Manager – Courtney – saw her determination and did what she could to assist her. Courtney partnered with Jasmine to secure housing and even helped her find furniture! She directed Jasmine to childcare options and facilitated registering her children in school.
Once Jasmine’s home life was more stable, she was able to focus on completing and excelling in the WOW program. Proving to be adept and eager, Jasmine emerged as a leader in the kitchen. Completing 11 weeks in the program, Jasmine began a 4-week internship at Café Options. With this additional experience under her belt, she began the job search in the WOW Career Center. Submitting many applications and resumes with no interviews, Jasmine was a bit discouraged. However, her determination kept her going and she soon had multiple interviews, all of which she aced – Jasmine was offered 3 jobs in one day!
In less than a year, Jasmine has moved from a dependent, abusive relationship to an employed, independent woman. She says, “I have grown to be self-sufficient and a positive single mother for my children.” Her children are proud of her and so are we. We know Jasmine will go far – she already has aspirations of owning and operating her own Latin/Caribbean style food truck. We wish Jasmine the best as she undertakes a new career and a new life.
Every Friday afternoon WOW kitchen staff, case management staff, and the students gather to share what the students have learned in the past week and what they hope to learn or improve upon in the upcoming week. This special time is also used to honor any WOW student who has completed his or her 12 weeks of training in the WOW kitchen and is moving on to an internship at Café Options. It is amazing what the staff has learned from the students and what the students have learned about themselves in their short 12 week stay. After recording several weeks of bittersweet good-byes, these are some examples of wisdom shared by the students:
- If there is one thing I can pass on, it’s don’t sweat the small stuff.
- I am a bit emotional right now because I want you all to know that this is the first thing I have ever finished in my life. I came, I worked hard and I completed it!
- One student wrote a poem inspired by her time in the program and then left her classmates with a message about patience: If you are working on getting to where you want to be, know you must have patience. Things will work out.
- I just want to thank the chefs for being here. I know with their talent they could be working in any restaurant, but they choose to be here teaching us every day. I am grateful for their choice.
- If I can do this, you [current WOW students] can do this too!
- I can now confidently say I can name all 5 mother sauces. Béchamel, velouté, espagnole (brown), tomato and hollandaise!
- Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I have made many friends and I am looking forward to seeing where this training is going to take me!
- When choosing to do this program, I looked at it this way: Four months down the road is going to come no matter what. I could either have this training under my belt or I could be in the same spot I was in four months ago. I’d rather have the training!
The WOW team is very proud of what these incredible interns have overcome and achieved.
The WOW resource spotlight for this week is Providers’ Resource Clearinghouse (PRC). As explained on their website, “PRC accepts donations from corporations and individuals of new and used office and household furnishings plus new office and household supplies, and finds new life for the items by recycling or redistributing them to other nonprofits and those they serve for a small fee.”
PRC recently helped a current WOW student furnish her brand new home with a couple of beds, a dining room set, and bookcase for a mere $75! Not to mention the “little” extras PRC insisted our student add to her cart for no additional charge: bedding for the 2 beds, 3 chairs, an area rug, and a few other household items.
Here’s a quick rundown of what PRC offers WOW and several non-profit agencies in the Denver Metro Area:
- Memberships range from $75 – $1,000 annually with varying access and benefits
- All memberships allow unlimited access to PRC warehouse
- Members can purchase vouchers for clients to pick out 4 large items for $75 (+ extra goodies)
- All items are new or gently used donations including but not limited to items from Bed, Bath and Beyond, Pottery Barn, Office Depot and the Home Depot!
- Items for members are sold at a discounted price with an additional 10% off the asking price for all members
- The first Friday of each month the warehouse is open to the public
Some interesting facts of the great work that PRC achieved in Fiscal Year 2008-2009
- Distributed $1.9 million worth of in-kind goods to 1898 nonprofit and community based agencies who in turn served tens of thousands of individuals;
- Provided furnishings directly to 522 low-income households;
- Assisted 1103 businesses and individuals in donating materials and furniture to nonprofit organizations and the people they serve receiving a total of more than 458,659 worth of good and products at fair market value. •provided vocational employment and training to 140 individuals with a chronic and persistent mental illnesses providing at total of 13,894 hours of vocational training and assistance.
Location: 14200 E. 35th Pl., Unit 105, Aurora, Colorado 80011
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Main Phone Number: 303-962-2270