History and Programs

The Poor People’s United Fund was co-founded in 1980 by Kip Tiernan and Fran Froehlich. The late 70’s saw drastic cuts to government funding for human services, and the smaller grass roots organizations were no match for the larger organizations when competing for vital private foundation funds. Kip and Fran believed that the grassroots organizations were closer to the neighborhood problems and had an important role to play in the community. Over 20 years later PPUF continues to service the same grassroots needs of the community, frequently as the last resort for those who have been refused help from every other known source. We are funded entirely from our generous and caring donors. We take no funds from the city, the state or federal government, allowing us to critique policy without fear of financial censure and to provide help to those in need, with no strings attached.

PPUF actively maintains the following programs:

Emergency Assistance to Individuals and Families

PPUF provides emergency assistance to a growing number of individuals and families in need of food, housing and health care, who have fallen between the cracks, or have short term, or crisis related needs. We try to meet some of the most urgent needs, such as providing food vouchers to single mothers and elderly shut-ins, providing bus fare for people traveling to family members in need, or providing shoes and clothing for homeless people starting new jobs. We fall woefully short of the needs of the community, but we continue to do the little we can with the limited resources we have.

Education and Advocacy

PPUF staff research, write, speak, publish and advocate for a better informed and more compassionate public regarding the causes and consequences of poverty and homelessness. PPUF regularly publishes Urban Meditations, a compendium of insightful and thought provoking articles, mediations and essays concerning human rights, human services and political and governmental policies, and the PPUF Newsletter, a quarterly newsletter including commentary, letters and updates on socially relevant human services issues, including reports on the PPUF member organizations and their activities, and the Misery Index. We hope the research, analysis and advocacy work we do help all of us to envision and create a future free of needless human suffering. (see publications page for newsletter)

Direct Assistance to Organizations

PPUF provides direct financial and support services to  small grassroots member organizations in the Boston metropolitan area. Each organization is dedicated to serving the needs of a specific and underserved population. By supporting these groups, PPUF touches the lives of thousands of people who live in unstable and unsafe conditions, below the poverty line and outside the mainstream of society.

The Ethical Policy Project

The Ethical Policy Project is an outgrowth of the Ethical Policy Institute, a group begun by Kip Tiernan and Fran Froehlich in 1988 when they were Fellows at the Bunting Institute, at Radcliffe College. The EPI was a consortium of multi-discipline advocates, academics and practitioners, bound together by a common thread – a commitment to eliminating the public policies that impose injustices on impoverished citizens. In 2002, this group was re-formed at PPUF as the Ethical Policy Project. We have researched, analyzed and identified the current and past political and economic conditions that create the inequities that deny access to basic human needs and services in the Commonwealth, as well as the perceptions that ignore and deny the realities of these conditions. Our mission is to affect a more level playing field and a change in the current public policies that deny access to basic human needs and services to all residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.