The Office of Community Wealth Building focuses on three main areas in order to improve the quality of life for residents.
Increase living-wage employment by Richmond Residents.
Support youth and families from early childhood to young adulthood to develop their capacities to the fullest and facilitate upward social mobility.
- Improve the quality-of-life in low income communities through housing policy.
Strengthening educational efforts across all segments of the educational pipeline is vital to improved long-term educational outcomes.
Richmond Early Childhood
Building on the existing early childhood momentum at the regional and state levels (i.e. Smart Beginnings, Commonwealth Council for Childhood Success, VPI Plus Grant) the Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB) in partnership with the City’s Department of Human Services and Richmond Public Schools has launched the Richmond Early Childhood Cabinet.
Using a shared framework, the Cabinet will identify common early childhood indicators and develop metrics to track progress. The effort will serve as a permanent ongoing entity that embeds the work of the partnership.
Richmond Early Childhood Action Council
The Richmond Early Childhood Cabinet embraces a wide group of community providers and stakeholders with the establishment of the Richmond Early Childhood Action Council designed to meet the needs of young children and their families. While the Richmond Early Childhood Cabinet serves as the overarching entity anchoring the shared framework, the Action Council promotes the shared vision growing out of The Cabinet’s framework.
The Richmond Early Childhood Alignment Project (RECAP) will assist community organizations in creating one or more hubs for neighborhood-based early childhood and parent engagement in public housing communities. Programming will include a range of workshops and the development of peer support networks. RECAP will also develop a plan to incentivize participation and encourage successful first-year participants to become early childhood advocates in the community.
Emphasis on Collaboration
Creating a successful pathway out of poverty requires many networked resources. The City of Richmond through the Office of Community Wealth Building has made investments in the following initiatives to improve academic performance and promote positive social development for students at all grade levels.
OCWB partnered with the Richmond Public Library and Richmond Public Schools (RPS) to create the RVA Reads program - a pilot program where RPS' pre-Kindergarten students received a book a month over a four month period to encourage reading at home. In some homes, this is the first time books have been in the home. To introduce the books to the children, community volunteers visit pre-K classrooms to lead fun, interactive readings. The response to the program has shown significant success, and the initiative is slated for expansion to become year-round in future school years.
Communitites in Schools
Communities in Schools - Richmond (CIS) provides a variety of programming and intensive supports to students at all grade levels in Richmond, with the aim of helping redress the impact of poverty on healthy child development and learning.
NextUp aims to provide high-quality out-of-school time activities and programming at all City middle schools by 2020. NextUp, in partnership with the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond (formerly the Middle School Renaissance 2020) program, is a public-private initiative involving the City, local area non-profits and corporations.
OCWB is collaborating with Richmond Public Schools and the RPS Education Foundation to launch RVA Future, a major new college and career access initiative. The goal of RVA Future is to lift the aspirations and expectations of Richmond area youth by providing students the information, support, and ultimately financial assistance needed to enroll and thrive in college or a quality training program. The City, through OCWB, has provided initial funding to support the establishment of Future Centers -- dedicated spaces within City high schools to support students in developing and pursuing their career goals. The Future Centers are the critical first step in the long-term development of a Promise Scholarship-type program for Richmond, with the aim of providing meaningful financial support to students pursuing post- secondary education.
Provide Jobs and Economic Advancement
A long-term, lasting solution to poverty must be anchored in an economic development strategy that generates jobs. The Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB) is working to expand and improve the way in which residents are connected to local employers, and supports programs which provides training and development to participants striving to obtain and maintain well- paying, sustainable occupations.
Innovative strategies are being utilized to translate area economic growth into economic opportunity for more Richmonders. As the local labor force is strengthened, fiscal sustainability for the City is strengthened through increased local revenue generation and an expanded healthier tax base.
Center for Workforce Innovation
The Center for Workforce Innovation (CWI) is working to expand and improve employment pathways. CWI prepares participants in their pursuit to obtain and maintain well-paying sustainable employment with training support, and connects them with local employers.
Social Business Enterprise
Business enterprises whether non-profit, employee-owned or privately owned, that are deliberately structured and operates to create a social good. The specific designated social and economic good for Richmond’s social enterprise program, is to reduce poverty by creating and circulating wealth in low-income communities.
BLISS: Building Lives of Independence and Self-Sufficiency
Recognizing that there are multiple barriers to achieving self-sufficiency beyond just employment, CWI, in collaboration with OCWB, launched a new program called BLISS, which provides wrap-around holistic support services to targeted participants who are heads of household. BLISS helps participants identify and overcome barriers to success, and addresses the comprehensive needs of participating households. Ultimately, the program is designed to help families take the long-term steps necessary to escape poverty and achieve self-sufficiency.
The City of Richmond has an exceptionally high geographic concentration of poverty, even compared to other central cities nationwide. Residents who live in the city’s public housing communities are among the poorest with an average household income of less than $9,400 annually. A top recommendation of the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission (subsequently the Maggie Walker Initiative) calls for the redesign of this model of public housing – which often creates pockets of distress with rippling negative effects. The Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB), in collaboration with Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority (RRHA), community partners, and other City agencies, is helping to develop a strategy for the redevelopment of these communities, using a public policy strategy that empowers and expands choices for residents while assuring no one is involuntarily displaced.
Good Neighbor Initiative
In collaboration with the Institute for Public Health Innovation, OCWB has launched a Housing Advocates program known as the Good Neighbor Initiative, operating in each of the major public housing communities. These advocates are employed to serve as guides through leasing policies and procedures and federal support programs available to public housing residents. The program promotes the engagement and empowerment of RRHA public housing residents by providing regular outreach, facilitating education and support groups, and logging and referring residents to local organizations and resources.
Affordable Housing Trust Fund
The City of Richmond established an Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) in 2008, but the fund did not receive dedicated funding until fiscal year 2015. As part of the Maggie L. Walker Initiative, $975,000 were allocated to the fund, with a further $25,000 provided to staff and support the operations of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Oversight Board. The fund is administered by the staff of the Department of Economic and Community Development. The purpose of the fund is to support the rehabilitation or construction of new affordable housing units, leveraging private project dollars. Grants through the Fund are available through a competitive application process.
In December 2015, the City announced the 2015 AHTF awards, totaling nearly one million dollars. The awards are expected to generate more than $23.5 million in affordable housing development in the city and nearly 200 new and rehabilitated affordable housing units. In addition, special housing related services will be provided to more than 220 families and homeless individuals.