Thanks to your support, CSL has opened its 11th location inside of Hawthorne Place Apartments in Independence. This location takes a focused approach to helping families build assets and wealth, thanks to unique partnerships. A special grand opening is planned for later this month.
Hawthorne Place Apartments (HPA) developed decades ago at the corner of US 24 Highway and State Route 291 in Northeastern Independence, is one of the largest neighborhoods in the country dedicated to affordable housing. There are 745 rental units in the neighborhood that is located on both sides of US 24 Highway. Residents pay 30% of their income in rent, and have a variety of programs and services available to them to improve their economic standing. In the more than 40 years that HPA has operated, the overwhelming majority of residents have used public housing as a means of remaining stably housed and improving life for their family. A proportionately small number of residents have brought violence and other troubles into the community, creating challenges in developing a cohesive neighborhood. For the more than 2,000 people that call HPA home, they have dreams like all of us, and having access to affordable housing is a key piece of that dream.
HPA is owned and managed by Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), based in Boston with a regional presence in the Kansas City area. POAH is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, with a mission to "preserve, create and sustain affordable, healthy homes that support economic security and access to opportunity for all." POAH has a major initiative based around Community Impact, that uses housing as a platform, but provides significant supports to dramatically improve the lives of its residents.
With that in mind, POAH contracted with CSL, beginning in January 2017, for resident services. Cumulatively, CSL and POAH have pledge more than $1.5 million over the next five years to build assets, wealth, and opportunity for our neighbors at HPA.
Central to our work is participation in the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. HPA was approved as an FSS site earlier this year. The FSS program incentivizes families to improve their earned income through working more, or improving one's job situation. When an HPA neighbor improves his/her earned income, the rent does go up (because rent is income-based), but the difference between the old rent amount and the new, increased rent amount can be escrowed into a wealth-building account. Consider this example:
If a neighbor makes $1,000 per month at a job, the rent is $300. Through improved employment, if that same neighbor makes $2,000 per month at a new job, the rent jumps to $600. However, the difference ($300) is placed into a managed FSS account that grows over time to provide families real economic opportunity. Families may build assets for five years, so in the example above, the family could exit the FSS program with $18,000 saved, money that could be used for an approved activity like education, home-ownership, or credit-building activities (i.e., paying down debt).
CSL Team at Hawthorne
Through our partnership, CSL has six staff working alongside our neighbors. Most of our work directly or indirectly ties back to enrolling families in the FSS program and helping them build assets by improving their employment situation. Here's a quick look at our team:
Jennifer Manuleleua, Community Development Manager
The Community Development Manager leads CSL's work at HPA, and closely interfaces with the POAH property management staff on-site and our HPA neighbors.
Valentine Reid, Financial Coaching Manager
The Financial Coaching Manager leads our Financial Coaching initiatives, including implementation of the FSS program. The position also works directly with a number of neighbors in a one-on-one coaching relationship.
Jeff Sheets, Financial Coach
The position also works directly with a number of neighbors in a one-on-one coaching relationship. Major outcomes of the coaching relationship include improving household income, household net worth, and credit scores, along with enrolling families into the FSS program.
Dorothea Allen, Activities Assistant
This position oversees and executes activities designed to engage and build community among residents. Some of the major initiatives include a summer meal program for kids, a summer block party, a back to school fair, overseeing the emergency food pantry, hosting a job fair, and much more.
Rose Hernandez, Career Development Specialist
This position helps neighbors improve their income through work opportunities. According to neighborhood data, more than 400 adults are not working, and CSL is connecting out-of-work adults to training and education opportunities. Currently, two of our HPA neighbors have been selected to participate in a tuition-provided welding certification program through Metropolitan Community Colleges that provides a great career field to enter. This is an example of how we want to connect our neighbors to career opportunities.
Brianna Powers, Housing Stability Specialist
Neighbors often leave HPA on their own or through evictions. Our Housing Stability Specialist works to end the cycle of transient housing and help keep our neighbors stably housed through counseling, education, and supportive assistance.
There are many partners working together to make this venture successful. POAH brings to the table best-in-class property management, and a supportive environment for community- and asset-building. Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) of Greater Kansas City and United Way of Greater Kansas City provide the programmatic support for our financial coaching, and our broader framework as a LISC Financial Opportunity Center. Jackson County COMBAT has provided funds to support our work in an effort to decrease normalized violence in the community. Mid-Continent Public Library sends its Reading Rocket to the community for easy access to library resources, similar to Truman Medical Center's mobile garden that comes and provides fresh produce options for neighbors. Harvesters provides food for our summer feeding program, and the Boys and Girls Club on-site, has provided positive enrichment to more than 180 youth in the neighborhood for years. The Independence and Fort Osage School Districts, which both have students in the neighborhood, work with us closely to improve parent engagement, child attendance, and early childhood education. Community of Christ also offers several outreach missions in the community, and has dedicated field staff.
It takes a lot of resources and opportunities for families to break the cycle of poverty. These committed partners are layering resources to improve effectiveness.
Changing culture and lives does not happen overnight. We think the partners are working with our neighbors to lay the groundwork for a bright future. CSL and POAH have a five-year contract for services in place, and we, among many objectives, aim to enroll hundreds of families in the FSS program, and show significant increases in household income, household net worth, and credit scores.
In late August, we are planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony with our partners, the neighbors, and some elected officials to celebrate this opportunity. We look forward to keeping you apprised of our progress.