The Philanthropy Collaborative

Regional Case Studies

People Helping People
Salt Lake City, Utah




People Helping People was formed in 1993 to support and promote self-sufficiency for single mothers in the early stages of welfare reform. The program's clients fell into two categories: the chronically poor, who had spent years and often grew up on welfare, and lacked the job skills needed to succeed in the workforce; and women who were unexpectedly forced to rejoin the workforce, either because of divorce or because staying at home was no longer economically feasible.

In the beginning, People Helping People partnered with Utah's Office of Family Support, and served 50 women a year in Salt Lake County. It started with 30 volunteers and no paid staff. Women enrolled in a 6-month program pairing enrollees with professionals who served as mentors, and attended courses taught by life skills coaches every other Saturday. In the first three years of operation, People Helping People reported staggering results, with 65 percent of program enrollees leaving welfare and entering the job market.

The support People Helping People receives from foundations is an important part of the program's success. "It's important for people to realize that we were initially funded through a government program that was fee-for-service, but we decided that it was too restrictive as far as who we could serve," said Founder and Executive Director Kayleen Simmons. "There are lots of women who are low income who don't qualify for government assistance for some reason, or who are unwilling to enroll in government assistance programs. And [with private funding], we could reach the women that really wanted to be a part of it."

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