Parents Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights (POWER)

 

Parents Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights
309 5th Avenue SE
Olympia, WA 98501
www.m.mamapower.org

Mission:

POWER is an organization of low-income parents and allies advocating for a strong social safety net while working toward a world where children and care giving are truly valued, and the devastation of poverty has been eradicated.

History:

POWER was founded in 2007 by members and staff of the twenty-three year old Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition (WROC), as WROC closed its doors. Since then, we have provided support to over 18,000 low-income families via our telephone hotline, outreach, informational website, email, social networks, and informative, skill-building workshops. POWER is well known as a grassroots, anti-poverty resource to which low-income parents, social service providers, community groups, legislators, and reporters turn for support and information.  

The Issues:

Nationwide, single mothers and their children are the demographic most likely to be poor; 29% of female-headed households live in poverty, 45% if they contain children under age five. Employed single mothers earn 44% less than male counterparts. Over 80% of welfare recipients are single-parent families and nearly half have experienced domestic violence. As an organization made up of low-income leaders, we often have to assert our right to be taken seriously among larger, more economically affluent organizations we are collaborating with. POWER members are unequivocal about the need to end economic policies that are designed to keep single parents, immigrants and children in deep and desperate poverty.  

Constituency and Leadership:

Our seven-member Board of Directors includes six parents, four who are low-income, two who are single parents, one Latina, one trans woman, four who identify as queer and two people with disabilities. Our Board looks like our constituency: low-income people who are disabled and/or raising disabled children, survivors of domestic violence, people of color, single parents, trans and queer parents, and others facing increased barriers to accessing adequate income. POWER has 1,436 members with whom we keep in touch via our informative newsletter. Over 80% of our members are low-income, over 90% women. 

Tackling Oppressive Structures:

Over the years, POWER has worked hard to reach out to marginalized communities. For example, we saw that Native families were experiencing sanctions to their TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) grants at twice the rate of other families. We met with Native women who had experiences where caseworkers assumed they were lying when they said they did not receive money from their tribes. After we made this information public, the discrepancy disappeared. We are sensitive to the intersectionality of the different issues and identities of our members, volunteers and Board. We are strong in our approach to issues of classism, feminism, racism, ableism and LGBTQI rights.

Movement Building:

We are well known in our community and are a resource for social service providers, educators, reporters, and legislators as well as for low-income families. We are working with Thurston Asset Building Coalition and Window Seat Media to share and build our skills around storytelling. We have collaborated with our local Senior Center’s Reader’s Theater group and with Heartsparkle Playback Theater to hold storytelling events. Another primary way we network within our community is by sharing the resource of our meeting space with small and start-up social change groups. Having a meeting space available allows those newer groups to use limited resources more effectively

Long-term Vision for Change:

We recognize that overcoming poverty is not an individual problem to be individually remedied through paternalistic “self-sufficiency” programs, but that poverty is a systemic problem that needs to be remedied through systemic change. As long as poverty continues to be a lived reality for any of us, it should continue to be a problem for all of us. We work to eliminate poverty through supporting low-income people in advocating for themselves, through pushing lawmakers to enact legislation that supports an adequate safety net for our state’s poor families, and through supporting low-income entrepreneurs in the Alchemilla Feminist Economic Collaborative. There are few organizations like ours that are truly low-income led. Our empowerment work not only affects our members, but also their children.  

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Organization Budget:  $64,000
Request: $10,000

Raised to date this week:

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