Nearly 200,000 people are living in poverty in the Mid-South.

It hasn’t been a lack of effort that keeps them from achieving their goals, but rather a lack of access to resources and services.According to a study from the University of Memphis, the city of Memphis has a poverty rate of 26.2% which is 15% higher than the national average.

Several studies put Memphis at or near the top of large metro areas for overall poverty. Even more alarming, 44.7% of the city’s children live in poverty – the nation’s highest child poverty rate.

Without an organized and collaborative approach, cycles of generational poverty will continue. In response, United Way of the Mid-South has created Driving The Dream, a new, innovative system of care to address the effects of poverty and help people craft – and reach – the life of their dreams.

Poverty reduction not only transforms the lives of individuals and families, moving them from crisis to self-sufficiency; it also has the potential to be an economic engine. Instead of high poverty rates being a drag on the local economy, efficiencies in services and your targeted investment can boost economic growth.

A growing income gap and the presence of persistent poverty in our communities constrains economic opportunity for everyone. The economic gains of the past several years have not reduced poverty. The key to our economic prosperity is poverty reduction.

How it works and the expected impact
United Way estimates roughly 20,000 people in poverty can be promptly impacted by Driving The Dream in its early stages if we receive the support we need from donors, grantors, and other sources of philanthropy.

A coalition of local businesses who are all focused on investing in innovative poverty reduction solutions and economic growth strategies will create opportunities for us all. That means nearly 10% of Mid-Southerners in poverty can receive support now, and be connected to resources and opportunities to free them from generational cycles of poverty.

Families and individuals in poverty work with the Driving The Dream providers to create a “map of their dreams,” charting the order of steps, programs, and services necessary to help escape poverty and live the life of their dreams.



  • Partners with nonprofits and other groups
  • Addresses poverty and quality of life issues
  • Forms a network of professionals and agencies serving individuals and families in poverty


  • Are trained to employ the Transitions to Success® care model
  • Utilize the Arizona Self-Sufficiency Inventory – learn more & see the index here.
  • Centralize information, access client data, track client progress, and make/receive referrals through CoactionNet (a local, shared, web-based database)


  • Individual Agency Highlight reports
  • Entering Clients and Referrals in CoactionNet
  • DTD Agency Service Population Survey
  • Announcing the Referral Update Reminder System.


Bulletins address updates to the Driving the Dream Referral Form (and update process), the new Driving the Dream Support Request, an option for Care Coordinators to request an e-mail from Program Enrollment, and a question added to the Driving the Dream Client Information form.