August 24, 2012; Source: Boston Globe

Connect, a small nonprofit in Chelsea, Mass., just north of Boston, has drawn national attention and funding by connecting low income people with a variety of services, including coaching, to increase their financial independence. The group represents a partnership of local organizations which seeks “to integrate, in one central and supportive location, resources to address the community’s housing, financial, educational and employment needs, while nurturing social networks to provide the glue and sustenance for each individual and family’s journey toward economic security.”

A core component of what Connect offers is coaching and group classes like those popularized by the dieting program Weight Watchers. Ann Houston, the group’s executive director, told the Boston Globe, “This is about people learning to live their lives in a different way, in a way that makes sense. You have to learn to budget and you have to learn English and learn work skills and you have to learn new ways of living. And you need help along the way.”

The Globe article cites several examples of how Connect has helped people get their life on a more positive course. The coaching element of the program is what distinguishes it, and all those interviewed for the Globe story spoke to its effectiveness.

One Connect partner, The Neighborhood Developers, has received a $3 million federal grant to expand the scope of its offerings from 900 to 4,000 individuals. Other Connect partners offer services and space to support these clients.

Joanne Goldstein, Massachusetts secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, said, “Putting all the agencies and partners under one roof makes it easier to address obstacles and far more likely the individual will succeed.” She added, “People have been discussing this concept, but this is one of the first experiments in the Commonwealth where people have actually put everything together.” Readers: have you seen other examples of this concept in action, and if so, what results have you witnessed? –Kristin Barrali