Tennessee Department of Human Services Families First Community Grant funds Driving The Dream™ to help thousands of families move from poverty to financial security.

United Way of the Mid-South is the recipient of the Tennessee Department of Human Services Families First Community Grant Project for $18.2 million designated for the expansion of Driving The Dream™ (DTD™). This two-year investment allows United Way to expand services to low-income families in Shelby County, helping to drive financial and social mobility for thousands of individuals.

Driving The Dream™ creates a network of support by connecting human service agencies through a shared platform, enabling equitable access to needed services for the most vulnerable individuals and families. DTD™ provides a system that works for families.

DTD™ is able to quantify individuals’ current level of financial and social vulnerability and offers client-driven interventions. DTD™ currently provides a network of over 130 agencies supporting clients through a 3-tiered delivery model. Most clients reach the network through the Driving The Dream™ Call Center and are directed to  many services for their most immediate needs”, says Shayla Guy Kolheim, Director of Driving The Dream™  at United Way of the Mid-South.

Once in the DTD™network, individuals are connected to all available resources to ensure that they and their families are supported to reach their goals, whether that means long-term case management at a Care Coordination Hub or a “no wrong door” approach to receiving services at multiple agencies.  DTD™ partner agencies provide referrals and warm hand-offs to other agency partners, allowing the clients a friendly and helpful network of support. Education and Outreach partners – often schools, healthcare providers, or faith-based organizations – provide information about DTD™ and the network of partners to the families they serve, helping them to connect to the help that will transform their lives.

With this funding, United Way of the Mid-South will expand the capacity of DTD™ agencies to assist over 4600 families with referrals to the support services needed to achieve housing stability, affordable childcare, job training, food resources, financial literacy, and much more. United Way will also increase the number of Care Coordination Hubs from the current 3 Hubs to 12, offering high-level case management and multi-domain support services for families in need. Through these 12 Hubs, Driving The Dream™ will serve an additional 540 families per year, enabling them to make substantial improvements in their financial security.

“We are proud that the Department of Human Services has invested in United Way of the Mid-South and Driving The Dream™ with this significant multi-year funding. Our capacity to measurably improve the lives of thousands of local families has been greatly enhanced, and the impact will be felt for generations to come,” says Rev. Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., President and CEO of United Way of the Mid-South. “Driving The Dream™ is quickly becoming a national model for successfully and measurably moving people to a place of financial security and self-sufficiency.”

The Families First Community Grant will also provide emergency gap funding to clients as they transition to self-sufficiency. Offering temporary financial assistance during short-term challenges secures families’ ability to reach self-sufficiency and reduce dependence on long-term public support. In an innovative approach to girding the network for long-term sustainability, the Families First grant will also provide funds to direct service providers who demonstrate successful social outcomes for families. 

“United Way of the Mid-South is celebrating 100 years of service to this community, and throughout our long history,  we have exemplified an organization that evolves to meet the needs of the community with innovative strategies and  implementation. The role of our local United Way in creating collective impact solutions is central to our mission to address the community’s most critical issue of generational poverty”, says Rev. Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D.

Since 2016, United Way of the Mid-South (UWMS) has evolved from an entity solely raising and disbursing funds to local human services agencies, to one which drives strategic funding alignment to advance economic mobility; and which seeds major, community-level, innovative initiatives which drive financial self-sufficiency and economic security for families and individuals in the Mid-South service region, encompassing eight counties in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Of the total 279,390 persons served (2021-2022) in programs supported by $11.5M of UWMS grants, technical training, and resources – provided to over 70 human services partner agencies – a reported 96% were from low-to-moderate income households. 

UWMS now hosts, leads, manages and is accountable for Driving The Dream™  (DTD™); an unduplicated system of multi-domain human services and supports that provide families living in poverty the opportunity to grow their financial and social mobility. 

The impact of generational poverty has continued to plague families due to a lack of coordination among vital human service agencies and public support services. Operating in silos, with a lack of a coordinated approach across domains, agencies have limited success in addressing the primary characteristics of poverty.

Driving The Dream™  addresses this problem in human services delivery by creating and sustaining a system of care, incorporating partner agencies across multiple domains. DTD™ currently partners with over 130 agencies, working together to improve outcomes for individuals. DTD™ network partners represent education, health and well-Being, family and social capital, and economic supports – the domains affecting poverty that, through DTD™, work seamlessly in a collective impact approach.