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LISC and Centers for Working Families Help Chicago Families to Stabilize Their Finances and Move Ahead

Bundled services allow families to get the support they need, when they need it.
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Sometimes things come together at just the right time—the right people, the right idea, the right set of circumstances. So it seems with LISC and the development of Centers for Working Families® in Chicago.

LISC, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, is a national nonprofit that works to transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy communities—good places to work, do business and raise children. LISC brings together corporate, government and philanthropic support to provide community development corporations (CDCs) with loans, grants and equity investments; technical and management assistance; and local, statewide and national policy support.

The Chicago office of LISC has invested more than $100 million in that city’s neighborhoods over the past 23 years, leveraging $2.1 billion in financing from private and public sources.  Their New Communities Program (NCP), a long-term, comprehensive approach to urban development, has been hard at work in 16 targeted neighborhoods, under the leadership of local community-based organizations.  Job resource centers have been a critical component of NCP’s strategy to revive stagnant neighborhoods, stabilize those in decline, and counter the negative effects of gentrification.  The centers have become trusted neighborhood institutions; open to all residents, and providing individualized job services over the long term.

A December 2003 meeting between program managers for Chicago LISC and program officers with the Annie E. Casey Foundation provided the spark that propelled LISC’s employment work in a new direction.  Program staff from Casey explained the concept of Center for Working Families* (CWF), in which a broad range of employment, financial services and income supports are combined, sequenced, and delivered to low-income families.  The Casey Foundation, which had pioneered the concept, was looking for opportunities to test the CWF approach, hoping to find partners in communities to adapt the approach.

* The Centers for Working Families® is a federally registered trademark held by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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