Despite the growing need, barriers make it difficult for underserved individuals to access Hamilton County's faith-based social service resources. Ekklesia Development Corporation (EDC) will develop Project GILEAD, the nation's first online service linking faith-based providers and empowering people to become self-sustaining through a wide variety of supportive services offered by these providers. The three-year demonstration project targets Greater Cincinnati CMSA's hub, Hamilton County, with subsequent rollout planned for the state of Ohio, the tri-state area of Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana, and ultimately nationwide.
Budget cuts at Greater Cincinnati social service agencies come at a time when neighborhoods throughout Hamilton County are facing severe socioeconomic challenges. More than 2,200 Greater Cincinnati faith-based providers offer a vast array of workforce development services, GED preparation/testing, affordable daycare, after-school tutorial programs, substance abuse treatment, and ex-offender support. Project GILEAD will enable Hamilton County citizens, and particularly the 135,396 residents living in the Cincinnati Empowerment Zone and 11 other distressed communities, to go online in order to design, produce, manage, share, and access information on supportive services offered by these faith-based providers. Primary users include:
(1) Consumers (seniors, single-parent households, homeless persons, ex-offenders, un- and underemployed workers, high school dropouts, and substance abusers) who face difficulty accessing faith-based services because they lack affiliation and/or the skills necessary to navigate a fragmented and disjointed maze of providers. Consumers will publish service requests (e .g., the need for a tutor or affordable daycare), schedule appointments, maintain personal service calendars, publish online resumes, and provide ideas on how these services can become more customer-friendly.
(2) Providers, who will communicate service information, share data about (and therefore more efficiently coordinate) services to consumers, offer referrals, and ensure that fewer people fall through the cracks.
(3) Volunteer/Donors, who will enter their interests to volunteer time for providers' services.
The online system will be accessible on a 24-hour basis and will be offered free to consumers. Program objectives include: (1) establishing interfaith best practices for empowering at-risk/disadvantaged citizens actively to confront socioeconomic problems; (2) demonstrating the feasibility of NTIA/faith-based partnerships; and (3) facilitating long-term sustainability for the system and the services to which the system provides access.
The single most significant goal is to enroll 50,000 economically disadvantaged persons in faith-based services leading to socioeconomic independence. The City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, social service agencies, faith-based associations, technology companies, workforce development agencies, and local media are committed to partnering toward these outcomes.