Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas Inc. is commissioning a study on cash assistance and coaching — two forms of social intervention previously only evaluated as separate strategies.
President and CEO Jaime Wesolowski said during a press conference Wednesday that this is the first randomized control trial in the country that will examine how the two interventions can work together to support individuals and families working to emerge from poverty.
“The results of this study will inform the strategies and funding decisions we make around economic mobility as we seek to advance health equity strategies that allow all to thrive,” Wesolowski said.
The upcoming two-year study, called the San Antonio GOALS Initiative, will be conducted by the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Health, Community and Policy with help from two local nonprofits: Family Service and Empower House.
Family Service will recruit 575 households to participate in the study, and it will administer a mentoring program that helps people in poverty climb the economic ladder. This model developed by Boston-based Economic Mobility Pathways enables participants to set their own goals across key areas, including health, family life, career, finances and education.
“We see firsthand the impacts of intergenerational poverty and the challenges in trying to break the cycle,” Family Services President and CEO Mary Garr said. “This model offers a broad approach to understanding the multifaceted challenges that exist for many individuals and families and helps them find ways to overcome them sustainably.”
Empower House, formerly called The Martinez Street Women’s Center, will handle the cash assistance program, providing $500 monthly payments to participants via prepaid debit cards. Participants will be able to use the money in whichever ways make the most sense to them, and Empower House SA will interview them to assess the potential effect of cash assistance on their eligibility for other programs.
Empower House Executive Director Andrea Figueroa said she is honored to be a part of this research because her nonprofit’s work has historically centered on the “needs and priorities of Black Indigenous people of color community members and their families as we walk alongside them in support.”
A team from UTSA’s College of Health, Community and Policy will serve as independent, third-party evaluators for the study, ensuring that participants are randomly assigned to one of four groups — people participating in a monthly cash assistance program, people participating in Mobility Mentoring, people participating in Mobility Mentoring and a monthly cash assistance program, and people in a control group receiving no form of intervention.
The economic mobility study is open to Bexar County residents who are 18 to 60 with a household income not exceeding 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which is no more than $41,625 for a family of four.
Participants must live in one of the following ZIP codes: 78201, 78228, 78237, 78207, 78204, 78225, 78214, 78221, 78224, 78226, 78211, 78222 or 78217.
Those interested can contact 210-431-7550 or visit www.family-service.org/goals to apply.