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International Spotlight on KC’s African American Community

Kansas City’s $1 billion downtown makeover continues to earn praise for its state-of-the-art streetcar, swank restaurants, posh lofts and bustling night life. On the flip side, conditions for the city’s African American community haven’t improved. Dismal job opportunities, poor housing options and limited transportation access are still the norm.

In spite of the disparities, LISC’s Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) are working with our community partners to turn things around. In a recent story, The Guardian gets real about black unemployment in America and shares the perspectives of two Financial Opportunity Center clients on what it takes to get ahead in Kansas City. 

The news is full of promising economic reports that there is now approximately one job opening for every American out of work. However, just because there's an available worker and an open job doesn't mean the two can connect. There are still major hurdles to employment and to obtaining necessary skills, particularly if you do not possess a college degree or English is not your first language.

Financial Opportunity Centers work with individuals and families to improve their financial status by using a bundled service delivery system, combining financial coaching with social service support and job placement. FOC clients reduce debt, improve their budgeting, and increase credit scores so that their new job is a chance to build true wealth. Research has shown that FOC clients are 50 percent more likely to land a well-paying job than people receiving employment services alone, and more likely to stay in that job for a year or more.

Prosperity Center at Rockhurst University, where clients Cark and Shellie found the inspiration they needed, is one of four FOCs supported by Greater Kansas City LISC in partnership with United Way of Greater Kansas City. Between July 2017 and May 2018, over 600 clients received bundled services at the FOC sites that also include Guadalupe Center, Women’s Employment Network, and Community Services League. Of these, 58% increased their earnings, 29% boosted their net income, 24% enchanced their net worth, and 32% improved their credit scores. Click here to learn more about how FOCs are impacting Kansas City. The fifth Financial Opportunity Center at Metropolitan Lutheran Ministries will open soon.