|Latest component of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities initiative unveiledNational program launching in Houston in the Acres Home and Magnolia Park neighborhood multi-service centersGoals include reducing personal debt and increasing individual savings to help Houstonians have a more prosperous future|
HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and representatives of national nonprofit organization Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund and Regions Bank on Thursday announced the opening of two Financial Empowerment Centers (FECs) to provide one-to-one, professional financial counseling to Houstonians at no cost to residents.
The FEC locations are at the Acres Homes Multi Service Center, 6719 W. Montgomery Rd. 77091, in north Houston and the Magnolia Multi Service Center, 7037 Capitol St. 77011, in the City’s East End area.
A national program of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, the two FECs are strategically located in two of the 10 areas Mayor Turner designated as Complete Communities – Acres Home and Magnolia Park-Manchester – to ensure equitable access throughout the City, especially for low- and moderate-income families.
“Houstonians in historically under-served neighborhoods want access to services like financial planning to prepare for purchasing a home, sending their children to college or saving for the future,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “That’s why I believe our partnership with Regions Bank and Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund is critically important. Complete Communities works to give quality services and amenities to residents through a cross-sector approach. By tapping the strengths of our community members, nonprofits, businesses and philanthropic partners, together, we can build a stronger and more resilient city.”
The FECs are staffed by professionally-trained financial counselors who will help individuals and families to better manage their finances, pay down debt, increase savings, establish and build credit, and access safe and affordable mainstream banking products. At the core of the FEC model is the integration of counseling into other social services, such as housing and foreclosure prevention, workforce development, prisoner reentry, benefits access, domestic violence services, and more.
The Alliance for Multicultural Community Services employs the financial counselors and manages the day-to-day operations of the program. The Alliance is a leading local nonprofit organization committed to providing financial and social services to Houston’s residents.
Regions Bank has pledged its funding support to the Financial Empowerment Centers program as part of the bank’s commitment to supporting financial wellness, one of Regions’ top community investment priorities. The bank also supports a similar Financial Empowerment Center initiative in Nashville, Tennessee.
“The health of our city begins with the financial health of the people who call it home,” said Mark Jacobs, Houston Market Executive for Regions. “By supporting Complete Communities –
and the Financial Empowerment Centers partnership specifically – we can provide valuable resources to empower thousands of families working to reduce debt and build savings for a brighter future.”
The Mayor’s Office of Complete Communities collaborated with the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), a national nonprofit organization working with over 80 cities across the country, to train the Alliance staff in personalized, one-to-one financial coaching.
First piloted in New York City under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2008, FECs across the country have worked with over 99,000 clients, helping them reduce individual debt by over $137 million, and increasing their families’ savings by close to $19 million. A CFE Fund evaluation showed that this program works even for residents with very low incomes and other complex financial challenges. Houston is one of over two dozen local governments working to launch a local FEC initiative.
“Local leaders know first-hand the connection between family financial stability and community financial stability,” said Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. “Mayor Turner and the City of Houston are part of a growing national movement to bring free, high-quality financial counseling as a public service to their residents; we are proud to partner with Mayor Turner on this critical work.”
According to the FDIC, 310,340 people or 11.8% Houstonians do not have a checking or savings account. Of the 1.6 million households in Harris County, 28% are unable to cover their basic needs and 15% live at or below the Federal Poverty Level according to the United Way of Greater Houston report on Houston’s A.L.I.C.E. population – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed residents. The United Way of Greater Houston also is a financial underwriter of the Houston FEC program.
“The Financial Empowerment Centers initiative is designed to assist all Houstonians to become financially healthy, but we are specifically targeting this effort to help heads of households who don’t earn enough to be able to afford the basic necessities of food, housing, transportation, child care and health care,” said Shannon Buggs, director of the Mayor’s Office of Complete Communities. “The FECs are here to help our low-income neighbors overcome financial struggles and achieve sustainable financial success.”
Financial counseling will be available for Acres Home residents immediately after the grand opening on January 9. The FEC program receives client referrals from community partners that include Lone Star College, the Fifth Ward Chamber of Commerce, Houston Housing Authority, The Health Department’s Community Re-entry Network Program, the Housing and Community Development Department, the Harris County Area Agency on Aging, the Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office, and the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs.