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Pilot Program Sees Improving Health And Wealth Outcomes For Columbus Families

Children in the Move To Prosper program hold up posters.
Move To Prosper
Children in the Move To Prosper program hold up posters.

A three-year pilot program called Move To Prosper is showing the way to a successful future for 10 Columbus women and their families.

The program includes 10 women who have 1-3 children each, with incomes no more than $33,000 a year.

In the newly-released Prosperity Report 2020, Move To Prosper found that better housing, stable jobs and life coaching by Jewish Family Services and Big Brothers Big Sisters provided a foundation for the families to achieve their goals.

“They were really looking for folks who were in this very challenging, difficult situation, but they felt like they were in a position with a little support that they would see a lot of progress and that these are folks who are ready to make some pretty pronounced life changes,” says Jason Reece.

Reece is the lead researcher of Move To Prosper, and an associate professor of the city and regional planning program at Ohio State’s Knowlton School of Architecture. 

Move To Prosper helps the families find safe and affordable rental housing in safer neighborhoods like Gahanna, Lewis Center, Hilliard and Dublin, among others. The program, established through mostly private funding, pays for some of the housing costs, while the neighborhoods provide more employment opportunities.

The Prosperity Report 2020 shows nine out of 10 participants indicated that their family’s economic circumstances have gotten better since relocating and joining Move To Prosper.

From fall 2018 to fall 2019, when the survey was conducted, the number of families who reported their circumstances have gotten “much better" doubled.

“Many of the families had been able to take new jobs, and so some number of them have seen their incomes increase already,” Reece says. “They’re looking at different housing options that really weren’t a possibility prior to the program.”

Reece says the coronavirus pandemic has presented these families with new challenges. At least one woman is temporarily laid-off from her job. Reece says a life coach is providing her some guidance.

The program does provide short-term loans, if needed, so families can continue to pay their bills.

“It’s definitely a rapidly changing and evolving landscape in terms of support for families in Central Ohio because of what’s going on with the coronavirus and the economy,” Reece says. “We’re really trying to assess that in real time, to get an understanding of how to continue to support moms and set them up in a place so they’re still able to achieve their goals.”

Reece says the economic stability and better neighborhoods have also improved mental and physical health. The Prosperity Report shows 80% of the mothers saw “positive” mental and physical health changes in their children.

It also found a drop in ER admissions for asthma, from 4-12 times a year to nearly none. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says that’s a savings of $1,500 per visit.

“These health conditions have dropped dramatically, to the point where we had one child who was probably heading to the ER once a month because of an asthma attack, and now that’s not happening anymore,” Reece says.

Children involved in the program are also having greater success in school. The report estimates that the return on investment in the families will lead to children in the program earning $5.4 million more during their lifetimes.

Reece says Move to Prosper can be used as a model for other programs. In 2021, Reece says they plan to expand to 100 families in Central Ohio.

“That’s been a promising transition for us to see that we’ve moved beyond everyone feeling their mental health is much better to now, we’re actually seeing these other life improvements,” Reece says.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.