National History

TRI-CAP’s history began a couple of years before the agency itself was established.  TRI-CAP is the local result of our nation’s call to action to address the needs of individuals living in poverty.

The War on Poverty was declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson in his State of the Union Address on January 8, 1964:

“This administration today here and now declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join me in that effort….
Poverty is a national problem, requiring improved national organization and support. But this attack, to be effective, must also be organized at the State and local level.
For the war against poverty will not be won here in Washington. It must be won in the field, in every private home, in every public office, from the courthouse to the White House. Very often, a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty but to cure it–and above all, to prevent it. No single piece of legislation, however, is going to suffice.”

On August 20, 1964, President Johnson signed Public Law 88-452, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which authorized the formation of local Community Action Agencies as part of the War on Poverty. These agencies are directly regulated by the federal government. It is the purpose of The Economic Opportunity Act to strengthen, supplement, and coordinate efforts in furtherance of that policy.

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (EOA) established over 1,000 Community Action Agencies (CAAs) at the local level to implement EOA programs. EOA programs included: VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America); Job Corps; Neighborhood Youth Corps; Head Start; Adult Basic Education; Family Planning; Community Health Centers; Congregate Meal Preparation; Economic Development; Foster Grandparents; Legal Services; Neighborhood Centers; Summer Youth Programs; Senior Centers; and others. CAAs vary widely across the United States and have changed over time to include services and opportunities that address the conditions of poverty.  While poverty is defined as a household income at or below 100% of the federal poverty guideline, low-income is generally defined as a household with income at or below 150% of the federal poverty guideline.

TRI-CAP, one of our nation’s 1,000 Community Action Agencies, is designated to serve Dubois, Pike, and Warrick Counties in Southwestern Indiana.  To read more about TRI-CAP, please visit our website at

A 50 Year History of Community Action by Jim Masters

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