March 5, 2020

On Friday, February 28, months of work and planning culminated in NASB (North American Savings Bank) presenting a check to CSL for $100,000. With NASB’s support, CSL is launching Next Step KC: Home, a new loan product. The formal launch will occur in June 2020.

NASB, one of our area’s largest providers of home loans, recognizes the importance for all people to be able to access quality housing. NASB also shares belief with CSL’s Vision Statement that states “Communities where all people… have a place to call home.”

Next Step KC has been helping Kansas City families avoid toxic loans since 2013. CSL took ownership of Next Step KC in 2019, and added it to its existing portfolio of lending opportunities. Through its products, CSL has lent more than $1,000,000 to families, most with very low credit scores, who otherwise might turn to toxic lending operations. Most of the loans have been underwritten through Holy Rosary Credit Union, a CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) with C...

February 7, 2020

For Christina Jacks, she has a story that is, unfortunately, too common. She found herself a single mom when she had two kids in diapers, and her American Dream had evaporated. See, she was a homeowner, and after her marriage dissolved, she couldn’t afford anything.

Thankfully for her, subsidized housing was available through POAH – Preservation of Affordable Housing, where she lived at Hawthorne Place Apartments in Independence for four years rebuilding her life. Many of you know that, in an effort to bring meaningful and last change to our neighbors in Hawthorne, CSL has an office there with 10 staff working to connect neighbors to their dreams and aspirations.

She was fully-engaged with CSL in employment services, financial coaching, income supports, and received assistance with school supplies and Christmas presents for her kids. We helped her land a great job at a Raytown-based company that develops school picture orders.

With a new career, her life changed, and our community c...

September 17, 2019

Community Services League (CSL) is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of an additional $390,000 in United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) funding to help kids, families, and single adults find permanent and stable housing. With this new funding, CSL will now receive more than $1,060,000 annually from HUD.
The expansion is a direct result of CSL’s outstanding work in administering other HUD program dollars that has led to positive outcomes in our community. CSL began administering Permanent Supportive Housing in 2011, and following grant competitions in 2015 and 2017, was awarded additional program dollars. Annually, HUD provides a framework for a local competition to ensure taxpayer dollars are making an impact, and CSL’s expansion is a result of continued, outstanding scores in the annual competitions. CSL has excelled at keeping kids, families, and single adults stably housed, helping them improve their earned and unearned (public and private suppor...

July 12, 2019

Almost every month, I sit down and write a few hundred words about the work you support at CSL. Through words and images, I try to bring our programs to life, so that you have a better understanding of how CSL is working to make meaningful and lasting change in our neighbors’ lives.

In 2019, I’ve written about our collaboration with the Stone Church Neighborhood Dinner, how CSL is accomplishing our work in new environments, our commitment to workforce development as the pathway out of poverty, wealth and asset development, our new Farview Food Pantry, and CSL's acquisition of the Next Step KC lending program. Big initiatives with big vision are important. However, it’s important to remember that, sometimes, just being here is enough. So, what does that mean?

With the opening of our Farview location, we now have 14 dedicated offices in Missouri, and many other locations where we co-op programs. At these locations, the only constant is the unexpected. While our offices run a variety of...

June 6, 2019

If you've followed CSL closely in the last five years, you know our commitment to helping families access credit at reasonable rates. In 2014, we partnered with Holy Rosary Credit Union to develop our Small-Dollar Lending Program. Here's a quick recap of some of the more notable program statistics (as of April 30, 2019):

- 300+ loans

- $750,000+ in original loan values

- Those seeking refinancing of a toxic loan came with an existing average APR of 275%

- The average credit score at loan origination was 490

- We've been able to reduce APRs to an average of 14%

- We opened two state-licensed micro-branches of Holy Rosary Credit Union inside CSL offices, and hired a full-time loan officer to provide the staffing

- Our loan charge-off rate is only 7.8%

- We secured philanthropy to back the loans so the Credit Union's risk was mitigated

- We opened more than 500 traditional banking accounts/products (savings/checking account, direct deposit, debit card, secured credit card, etc.)

Along the way, we'v...

May 2, 2019

In 2018, I was approached by Fort Osage School District Superintendent Dr. Jason Snodgrass about utilizing a soon-to-be vacant building as a way to better support Northeast Independence and Northeast Jackson County families. Fort Osage maintained an Early Childhood Center on US 24 Highway for years, but in January of this year, opened the brand-new Woodland Early Childhood Center. This left the School District with about 5,000 square feet of potential to help its families, outside of the classroom.

In Independence, many public services are in a condensed area in the community's central corridor. As you move east of Lee's Summit Road, and certainly east of 291 Highway, there are fewer and fewer public services. While this may not seem like a big issue, the farther one moves away from services, the less likely one is to access those services, even basic human needs. Accounting for similar incomes, CSL sees fewer families connecting to basic needs, employment, financial, and housing supp...

April 25, 2019

CSL has made a major commitment to bringing "asset and wealth development" into the conversation about helping low-income families break the cycle of poverty. Too many of our neighbors just can't get ahead. Until families can develop assets and wealth, it's hard to move up the economic ladder.

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of ways for low-income families to develop wealth and assets. They often don't have jobs with employers that offer retirement accounts with matching incentives. The wages earned at those jobs aren't enough to meet a family's current obligations, let alone get ahead.

Enter the FSS Program. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) started FSS, the Family Self-Sufficiency Program in 1990. The program encourages residents of HUD-subsidized public housing to work more, earn more, and save more. Here's how it works:

1) Families in HUD-subsidized housing pay 30% of their income in rent

2) Normally, if a family earns more, then they pay more. This model be...

March 1, 2019

Robots and robotics are everywhere. Just in the last few years, it's become hard to not hear the phrase AI (Artificial Intelligence) at least a few times a day. In fact, there's a website that assesses the likelihood that a robot will take your job. While that's kind of a funny thing to think about, it's really a scary proposition.

Most families that come to CSL have earned income through work. However, the jobs they have are not sufficient to sustain a family, let alone using work as a tool to build wealth and assets. CSL is very committed to our work around Income Supports (Basic Needs), but that work, while vital, is a temporary fix to the pains of poverty. It is only through improved work situations and career development that families can improve their hopes for the future.

In 2016, CSL, as part of our partnership with Greater Kansas City LISC, launched our first Bridges to Career Opportunities (BCO) cohort. BCO is a national model that meets under-trained workers where they are...

February 1, 2019

CSL’s Family Stability Initiative, a high-intensity case management program, with a goal of keeping kids stably enrolled in their neighborhood school the entire school year, has largely been based in an office setting, with home visits sprinkled in. That model has worked well, and we will continue to operate in that fashion. Starting this week, we debuted Family Stability on a new platform, and that is school-based. Our newest Family Stability Specialist is based inside of Nowlin Middle School in Independence.

CSL looks for platforms to deliver services. That is to say, a platform is an advantage. A good example of a platform is at Hawthorne Place Apartments, an affordable housing neighborhood where CSL maintains an office to support neighbors. Families at Hawthorne have safe, reliable, and affordable housing, if nothing else. With housing taken care of, they can focus on other life domains. That’s why we refer to affordable housing as a good platform on which to deliver services.


January 3, 2019

A decade ago, Betty Snapp, who has been involved in countless "do-good" missions over the years, including her role as founder of Sunshine Center, had a calling. That calling landed her in her kitchen, cooking food for those that needed a meal and camaraderie. From her kitchen, the meal grew into the Stone Church Neighborhood Dinner. Her husband, Terry, was right beside her as their vision became reality.

The Stone Church Neighborhood Dinner is held in the fellowship hall of Stone Church Community of Christ, where the Snapps attend, and where Terry is a former pastor. The Dinner is held every Wednesday, and serves, on average, about 250 hot meals a week. In 2019, the Neighborhood Dinner will celebrate its 10th anniversary of helping our neighbors.

The meal is open to anyone, but primarily serves those who struggle with hunger and homelessness. Over the years, many of the guests have remarked that the Dinner is the one time of the week when they interact with others. Serving the poverty o...

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July 12, 2019