Poverty is complex, and there is no single solution. 

AugustineOpportUNITY tackles barriers and addresses systemic issues that get in the way of central Iowans meeting their basic needs and, ultimately, achieving self-sufficiency.

The progress we’ve made toward our goals is the result of our collective work through eight work groups formed following the launch of the first OpportUNITY Plan in 2014. Work groups continue to meet regularly to learn about their topic and to take action to meet specific goals. Since forming in 2014, some groups have restructured into subgroups and some have redefined their work. Others have merged with other groups in the community in order to avoid duplicating efforts and to make the greatest impact. The results are streamlined and effective groups with clear direction and focused efforts. 

In addition to working in these specific areas, we are reducing poverty by raising awareness, collecting data, and sharing and utilizing information about solutions. We are still working toward increasing coordinated alignment of programs, plans, efforts, and resources, while identifying gaps in our work. 

The Game Plan

The OpportUNITY work is built on the understanding that we can help all in central Iowa thrive when we work together.

This is the game plan to get there:

  • Address policy issues and work to meet the needs of NEW IOWANS (refugees and immigrants) who come to work and live in our community.
  • Address issues, policies, and perceptions on the RE-ENTRY of Iowans into society after incarceration or arrest.
  • Increase easy access to healthy, nutritious, and affordable FOOD in our community.
  • Address policy concerns such as the CHILD CARE CLIFF EFFECT that prevent parents from taking promotions and pay raises.
  • Increase the number of low-income and AFFORDABLE HOUSING units and reduce homelessness.
  • Increase opportunities for adults in all demographic groups to earn their high school equivalency diploma and engage in postsecondary education or JOB TRAINING.
  • Support investments in EDUCATION and literacy to increase opportunities for children to learn and to participate in out-of-school academic activities, as well as for parents to engage in their children’s education.
  • Provide easy, affordable, and convenient access to low-cost TRANSPORTATION.

The Work Groups

On the following pages are summaries of the work groups’ results and actions as we move forward in implementing the OpportUNITY Plan. The first phase includes the goals that were identified when the work groups initially formed. The results describe the accomplishments and challenges of the first phase. 

After 18 months, the work groups reviewed their results and, in the second phase, set new goals and action steps to continue to address issues or move on to new issues or concerns in our community related to their focus area. 

All individuals are invited to participate in an OpportUNITY work group. The only requirement is a dedication to create change in our community. Work groups are bonded by their desire to strengthen our community and a passion to help people while holding one another accountable to ensure that the work is accomplished. Each month our work groups and their subgroups find ways to educate, advocate, participate, and communicate for change in our community.


More than 5% of Iowa residents are immigrants.


70% of children with an incarcerated parent will follow in their footsteps.

Nearly 22% of Polk County households were food insecure at some time during 2016.

Iowa’s Child Care Assistance program creates a huge disincentive to advance toward higher wage jobs.

From 2006-2016, central Iowa lost 2,526 units that rented at $650 a month or below.


Only 32% of working Iowans have the skills and credentials needed to work in the middle-skill positions that make up 55% of Iowa’s jobs. 

EDUCATION: PRE-K THROUGH HIGH SCHOOLResearch indicates that students at risk of dropping out can be identified as early as sixth grade.

Less than 7% of all Des Moines regional transportation spending will go toward transit and pedestrian projects, which are key modes of transportation for disadvantaged populations.