Catholic Charities USA is pleased to announce that nine agencies, from across the ministry, are finalists in its Innovation Challenge competition. The CCUSA Innovation Challenge seeks to inspire member agencies to propose a fresh solution toward alleviating, reducing or eliminating poverty. The agency proposals were required to address a specific area of poverty and must be achievable, measurable, replicable, sustainable and scalable. Check out the finalists and their “Big Ideas” below:


Catholic Charities of Central Texas

Category: Small Agency

Catholic School-Based Virtual Therapy Initiative: Catholic Charities of Central Texas will launch the Catholic School-Based Virtual Therapy Initiative with the Diocese of Austin Catholic Schools to improve the well-being and resiliency of students, their parents and teachers. The project will increase access to affordable mental healthcare by embedding virtual therapy stations in the 20 Catholic schools across the 25-county Diocese of Austin. The initiative will address barriers to mental healthcare for low-to-moderate income students, which include cost, transportation, language and concerns about the stigma of receiving services. Use of sliding scale fees for counseling sessions will promote project sustainability, and fees will be covered for students who cannot pay. By June 2024, CCCTX will provide 500 Catholic school students with 2,000 counseling sessions annually.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Evansville

Category: Small Agency

Job Training Social Enterprise (dba/Handy Helpers Home Repair): Handy Helpers Home Repair is a job training social enterprise program operated by Catholic Charities Diocese of Evansville. Through 832 hours of supervised, paid, revenue-generating work and a 208-hour paid, customized case management plan, individuals with disjointed work histories gain work and life skills enabling them to acquire and maintain stable and self-sustaining employment. Working to lessen the impact of intergenerational poverty, the business will prioritize hiring individuals who are not actively engaged in the labor force and who are parents of children under the age of eighteen. These individuals will also have dysfunctional family, criminal, addiction, and/or poor educational backgrounds that prevent them from acquiring and retaining stable and self-sustaining employment.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Inc.

Category: Small Agency

Erasing Poverty through Entrepreneurship in Catholic Charities Communities Across America: This three-year project delivers the Catholic Charities of Omaha Microbusiness Program through an online format to 315 budding entrepreneurs served at six Catholic Charities member agencies across the US, facilitating the creation of 150 new businesses and 160 jobs. The work is an expansion of a proven microbusiness program model that annually helps 650+ low-income Nebraskans avoid poverty while strengthening local economies. This initiative serves low-to-moderate income adults seeking opportunities to become small business owners, but lacking business knowledge, resources and capital. Participants are actively receiving services from a Catholic Charities member agency. Client feedback ensures our curriculum is relevant and effective; curriculum is offered in both English and Spanish, and is tailored to the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the groups we serve.


Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego

Category: Medium Agency

COMPASS Program: (Client Onboarding Management Processing And Servicing System): The COMPASS program is an online system designed to process and track clients from intake to outcomes. It will manage client onboarding, internal and external referrals, and capture data analytics on services provided, total clients served, consolidate data for outcome measurements such as quality of service and community needs assessment. It is scalable to provide real-time data, and video conferencing with clients, leveraging existing video conferencing platforms.

Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri, Inc.

Category: Medium Agency

Purpose Home Repair and Plumbing – Rebuilding Homes. Repairing Lives.: The primary initiatives of the program are to a) develop a home repair and construction social enterprise to help low-income unemployed and underemployed people, with significant barriers to employment, gain marketable job skills in the construction industry; and b) to provide the case management for the soft skills needed to become employable and remain employed. This two-part program will: 1) develop a curriculum for entry-level home repair, construction and plumbing, ‘boots and belts,’ and paid On-The-Job (OTJ) training; 2) grow the social enterprise to place some trainees with Purpose Home Repair and Plumbing and boost enrollment in the OTJ training by meeting those in poverty with the greatest barriers (homeless, immigrants, reentry from prison, discharge from Alcohol & Drug centers, foster children exiting the system or families) who are eligible for reunification employment.

Catholic Charities West Virginia, Inc.

Category: Medium Agency

Hospital Transition Program: In the old days, when senior citizen Mary got discharged from a hospital, family was there to ride her home. Friends and family made sure Mary had food. Friends and family helped Mary with her medicines. Today, when Mary gets discharged, no one is there. Mary has no food at home, and she cannot figure out her medicines. Through the Catholic Charities of West Virginia’s (CCWVa’s) Hospital Transition Program, Mary will now be helped, as will her neighbors whose situations may be even more complex and require coordinated care for healthy living. The primary population affected by this initiative are low-income individuals with disabling conditions or chronic health concerns in the geographic area served by Wheeling Hospital. Program participants will be involved in the design and implementation of their transition post-discharge through their interaction with CCWVa’s onsite case manager and mutual coordination of a plan of care.


Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland

Category: Large Agency

The Max Kolbe Program (MAX): MAX proposes to address and alleviate poverty using an enhanced peer support program that incorporates job training, community collaboration and social enterprise. MAX will offer certified peer support services to clients who are in poverty and struggling with addiction. MAX staff will meet clients in crisis in emergency rooms and courts to offer immediate assistance, hope and mentorship on their path to recovery. MAX will also provide Peer Support certification, specialized field training, and abundant employment to those in recovery who are still struggling with poverty. The unique combination of programs within MAX will allow for the service of two, often overlooked, populations of poverty. Catholic Charities will pilot MAX in two counties, and through an interactive website, offer subscription services to the manual which will describe the steps to replicate the program in any community.

Catholic Charities of Spokane

Category: Large Agency

PREPARES: Promoting Life, Economic Stability, and Health Care for Pregnant and Parenting Families: The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) of abuse/neglect drives poverty and poor healthcare outcomes. PREPARES layers ACE protective factors for impoverished pregnant and parenting families (PPFs) via parish volunteers who mentor and resource PPFs. This grant will fund a national pilot of PREPARES, a successful Washington program, in four sites—ideally Healthy Housing Sites—networking parishes and providers to remove PPFs’ barriers to economic success. PREPARES will target PPFs with children aged 0-5 who live below the federal poverty level in four pilot sites with Catholic Charities (CC) agencies. PREPARES mobilizes parish volunteers to deliver core activities that layer protective factors for families at-risk of abuse and neglect. By targeting at-risk families expecting or parenting the youngest children, PREPARES resources families with the essential tools to transform generational cycles of poverty, homelessness, and abuse and neglect.

Catholic Charities of Santa Clara

Category: Large Agency

Parish Engagement Program (PEP): PEP is a parish community-based program that lifts the inherent dignity of those in need through trauma-informed peer-to-peer service navigation centered in an evening “farmers market” offering fresh and nutritious food, social service programs and a hot meal. This model produces immediate, rapid and sustainable progress for participants, establishing greater stability and self-reliance, and leading to increased interdependence, civic engagement, and participation in the parish and wider community.