More than 35 years ago, the Episcopal Church, the Roman Catholic Church and Migrant Ministry of the Wisconsin Council of Churches each offered various services to migrants in Wisconsin. In 1965, these church groups joined to form UMOS, Inc., a 501(c) (3), tax-exempt, private non-profit corporation in the State of Wisconsin. At that time, UMOS’ main purpose was to provide temporary childcare service to migrant families in a four-county area during the summer months. Funding was received from the federal government from the Office of Economic Opportunity to serve migrants in accordance with Title III-B of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.
During its second year of operation UMOS expanded its target area to 12 counties, and provided child care and adult basic education to migrant workers. And, in subsequent years more counties were added, broadening its services to 47 counties which remain the primary target area of the program. While all of the UMOS offices are located within this geographical area, services as needed are extended to other areas of the state through outreach.
After the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) was passed in 1973, funding for migrant farm worker programs was transferred from the Office of Economic Opportunity to the U.S. Department of Labor. Under CETA, migrant programs changed from supportive services for migrant families to employment and training programs preparing migrants for jobs outside the migrant stream. And, in 1983, CETA was replaced by Congress with the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA).
UMOS expanded its employment and training programs as the lead fiscal agent for the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services’ Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program on Milwaukee’s south side in the early 1990s. JOBS was the employment and training program funded through the federal welfare program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), in order to assist welfare families to become self-sufficient through employment.
Today, UMOS offers diverse programs and services to diverse populations. UMOS’ mission is to provide programs and services which improve the employment, education, health, and housing opportunities of under-served populations. Currently UMOS operates programs to assist low-income individuals and families as they gain economic self-sufficiency. In 2007, more than $46 million in grant funds from federal, state, and local sources supported these programs.
Programs and services provided by UMOS are divided into four major categories: workforce development, child development, education and social services, which include housing, health promotions and domestic violence supportive services. In addition to these programs, UMOS sponsors and organizes a number of cultural and community events in Wisconsin.
UMOS’ long history of focusing on employment and training continues as it has become the operator of a “one-stop” job center. In June, 2001 UMOS opened the Latina Resource Center at 802 West Mitchell Street. The Resource Center provides domestic violence advocacy and prevention services for women, children, and families.
UMOS has been a good neighbor to the community and the populations it serves by continually re-tooled its focus to better meet and serve the changing needs of the community.