When Kei-Lisha Thomas, a single mother of four, moved into Hawthorne Place Apartments in Independence, Missouri, she was working low-paying fast food jobs and had no clear idea of how to stabilize her family’s finances or build a satisfying career.
But with the support of services offered at Hawthorne Place Apartments, Missouri’s largest affordable housing complex, she enrolled at a local community college, taking three buses to get there. She also received budgeting and credit repair coaching offered through a LISC-supported Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) at the Community Services League, a longstanding Kansas City social service agency.
Today, Thomas has a bachelor’s degree, a better job and concrete goals for her future, all of which “gives my children an example of ‘you are not your circumstances,’” she said.
Last year, to make the financial coaching and wealth-building services more accessible to the 2,000 residents at Hawthorne Place, LISC, together with the United Way of Greater Kansas City, Community Services League and other partners, committed nearly $1 million to create an onsite FOC, at the housing development’s community center.
LISC was able to steward the relationships between all the organizations involved to leverage the investments for maximum impact and to help residents access the financial and professional support they want in a convenient location.
Hawthorne Place Apartments’ owner, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), a national affordable housing manager, pledged $1.1 million toward the project over five years. LISC and Community Services League, for their part, have committed $587,000 toward staffing and $375,000 toward emergency rent and utility assistance for residents.
The FOC, which opened in January 2017, is integrated with a new HUD Family Self-Sufficiency program (FSS). The program offers families incentives to improve their earned income through working more, or by bettering their job situation. Because Hawthorne Place Apartments is federally-supported, income-based housing, when a resident’s income increases, so does the rent. Through the FSS program, the difference between the old and new rents can be held in a wealth-building savings account.
Families may build assets for five years in the escrow account, and can use the money they’ve saved for activities such as paying tuition, buying a home or building credit by paying down debt.
And for residents of Hawthorne Place Apartments, the new FOC means accessible financial coaching, employment counseling and resources to build their financial and professional futures.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Preservation of Affordable Housing
Private Sector Support
Public Sector Support
Executive Director: Stephen Samuels
600 Broadway, Suite 280
Kansas City, MO 64105