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.


October 5, 2018

Don't worry, you still have a little more than 11 weeks to be prepared for Christmas! However, for our CSL locations, the Christmas season begins in full swing the Monday after our Luminous Gala (Monday, November 5). Why is that?

Christmas Stores at seven of our locations open their doors the week of December 10, so gift and meal counts are finalized by the week of December 3, which means we need all collections to be wrapping (pun intended!) up right after Thanksgiving. A good collection lasts 10-15 days, so we have to start our work in earnest right after the gala is over!

CSL projects to help Santa Claus deliver more than 10,000 Christmas presents to our neighboring kids, and support families with more than 2,000 Christmas meal baskets. Like everything we do at CSL, it takes a community-wide effort to support such a huge endeavor. So, how can you help?

1) Host a collection - you can host a drive to collect Christmas toys and/or meal items at your place of work, your church, your neighb...

September 7, 2018

It’s important that we provide you, our supporters and neighbors, updates on our work, and more importantly, updates on our outcomes. Today, I’d like to share programmatic updates related to our Major Accountabilities. In 2016, our Board of Directors adopted Major Accountabilities that we, as an organization, would be accountable for to our community. Since poverty is always an economic condition, our Major Accountabilities center around us pushing back against economic poverty. For the period of July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, I’m pleased to share the following with you:

Major Accountability #1 – Increase Net Household Income
This is a true measure of the status of a family’s poverty. Studies show over and over that when net household income increases, families can avoid crisis, and began to make long-term plans. Those plans are generally positive, and long-term planning helps families make better life and financial choices, and allows them to truly break free of the poverty mindset.


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