Springboard to Opportunities
Radically transforming affordable housing access by putting residents first.
Mississippi represents the extreme of Southern society when measured by the history of race relations. Today, Black Mississippians are still fighting to survive. Just this year, thousands of Jackson’s Black residents, who make up over 80% of the city’s population, went for weeks without clean, running water. The legacy of racism, disenfranchisement, and divestment remains abundantly evident particularly as low-income, Black Mississippians work to pursue their goals for themselves and their families in the midst of broken social safety net systems and structural barriers. . When Aisha Nyandoro established Springboard to Opportunities she wanted to change that – starting with the stories and experiences of families themselves.
While affordable housing can be a starting place for many low-income families, it is not enough to provide families with all they need to reach their goals. When residents struggle to find childcare or reliable transportation, it makes it impossible to obtain and keep a job. Past predatory debt or complicated applications make it challenging to go back to school to advance one’s career. The lack of a supportive social network or awareness of available resources make it even more challenging to know where to turn or to find the next step towards one’s dreams. Springboard to Opportunities was built on the premise that affordable housing combined with strategic, resident-engaged services can provide a platform for low-income people to advance themselves in life, school, and work.
Nyandoro designed Springboard To Opportunities to be responsible for and accountable to the individuals and families it serves above all else. Participatory planning, transparent dialogue, and resident organizing are key pillars of the organization’s “radically resident driven” approach. Springboard’s programming is centered on a spectrum of resident-reported issues. But despite these sustained efforts, in focus groups and conversations with residents, Springboard staff would always hear the same thing from residents: what they needed wasn’t another program; what they needed was cash.
In the fall of 2018, Springboard to Opportunities announced The Magnolia Mother’s Trust. The trust was established to provide low-income, Black mothers in Jackson, Mississippi $1000 cash on a monthly basis for one full year with no strings attached, making it the first guaranteed income initiative that targets e affordable housing residents living in households headed by Black women. In a state where the minimum-wage is still seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour, The Magnolia Mother’s Trust not only provides the funds families need to survive, but also stands in direct contrast to a paternalistic and overbearing welfare system that requires hours of paperwork and appointments for families to receive assistance and then limits their assistance to only cover items deemed worthy or necessary.
The women who received the cash payments used the funds to pay past due bills, buy clothes for their children, finish school themselves, and even pursue entrepreneurship. And as byproducts of relief from financial stress, participants gained confidence, the opportunity to dream, and the energy to pour into themselves and their communities. 2020 brought new challenges to Mississippi’s residents. But because of Nyandoro’s pioneering vision, Springboard To Opportunities was already poised to address their community’s new and pressing needs.
In March 2020, days before social distancing measures went into effect in Mississippi, the second Magnolia Mother’s Trust cohort received their first monthly payments. Springboard To Opportunities provided a lifeline for these mothers as they struggled to find reliable childcare options, were laid off, or were forced to risk their lives by remaining employed.
All of STO’s programming is designed around three programming pillars, as identified by residents, that target residents’ hopes and ambitions and addresses the obstacles that stand in the way of their success. Springboard to Learning emphasizes education for young people and provides resources for family-supported learning; Springboard to Success empowers residents to create plans and take action in service of their short- and long-term goals; and Springboard to Community creates a safety net for residents of affordable housing with immediate assistance and helps create a network of support throughout the community that residents can rely on. Through their comprehensive, responsive, and adaptive programming, Springboard to Opportunities intervenes to improve the immediate realities of Mississippi’s low-income residents and supports them on their journey to self-efficacy.