Lucas Metropolitan Housing launches Financial Opportunity Center to help residents build credit, grow assets and pursue career goals
Coinciding with April as national "Financial Literacy Month," Lucas Metropolitan Housing (LMH) announced today the launch of the agency's first-ever Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) in partnership with Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) Toledo and with support from the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, City of Toledo and United Way of Greater Toledo.
LMH is first public housing authority in Ohio to embed FOC services into its operations; pilot program's first-year focus is on Toledo's East Side, providing financial and career coaching services to residents at Ravine Park Village, Birmingham Terrace and Weiler Homes
TOLEDO, Ohio - Coinciding with April as national "Financial Literacy Month," Lucas Metropolitan Housing (LMH) announced today the launch of the agency's first-ever Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) in partnership with Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) Toledo and with support from the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, City of Toledo and United Way of Greater Toledo.
LMH is the first public housing authority in Ohio to embed FOC services into its operations on behalf of residents. LMH also becomes the fifth FOC partner in LISC Toledo's network after NeighborWorks FOC, 704 Second St.; NeighborWorks @ Mercy Health FOC, 2213 Franklin Ave.; Pathway FOC, 505 Hamilton St.; and ProMedica Ebeid FOC, 1806 Madison Ave. The new LMH FOC is located within the housing authority's new downtown headquarters, 424 Jackson St.
In 2023, LMH's FOC pilot program will focus on serving the city's East Side, including residents who live in Ravine Park Village, Birmingham Terrace and Weiler Homes. LMH leaders say they are committed to expanding the FOC's footprint and will look to ultimately serve all LMH affordable housing communities across Lucas County as services expand moving beyond 2024. The next area of focus will be the Junction Neighborhood in alignment with LMH's Choice Neighborhood Initiative.
FOCs provide employment and career counseling, one-on-one financial coaching and education and low-cost financial products that help low-to-moderate-income households build credit, savings and assets. They also connect clients with income supports and benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), utilities assistance and affordable health insurance. The cornerstone of the FOC model is providing these services in an integrated way - rather than as stand-alone services - and with a long-term commitment to helping clients reach their financial and career goals.
"We've learned that integrated or 'bundled' services lead to concrete gains in net income and job retention," said LMH President and CEO Joaquin Cintron Vega.
"Research shows that FOC clients who take advantage of combined services are 50% more likely to land a well-paying job than people receiving employment services alone," Cintron Vega said. "Equally important, the data shows long-term job retention - holding a job for a year or more - almost doubles when financial coaching reinforces the work of employment counseling."
The underlying theory of the LISC Financial Opportunity Center model is that the best way to improve the financial bottom line for low-to-moderate-income families is by helping people to simultaneously boost earnings while reducing expenses.
LISC Toledo reported that in 2021 (most recent data available), the Toledo FOC network helped:
• 526 FOC clients increase their net worth by reducing their non-asset-related debt by an average of $4,826.
• 320 FOC clients get placed in jobs, with an average starting wage of $14.28 an hour.
• 401 FOC clients improve their FICO scores by an average of 58 points.
Lucas County civic leaders praised LMH for seeking to build upon that foundation of success by offering FOC services to its residents.
"We're proud that LMH will become Ohio's first public housing authority to embrace and incorporate the FOC model into its service portfolio," said Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. "Innovative service delivery is key to ensuring all residents have access to these critical resources." LMH's new FOC has received funding from the Lucas County Board of Commissioners through its allocation of a $135,000 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families federal grant that provides states and local governments with flexibility in operating programs designed to help low-income families with children achieve economic self-sufficiency.
"The management and supply of affordable housing will always be LMH's top priority," said Lucas County Board of County Commissioners President Pete Gerken.
"But they deserve credit for looking to transform its housing stock to become bridges of opportunity that reduce the barriers separating our residents from the opportunity structures of the larger community. That's why we were thrilled to become a partner in this impactful development," Gerken said.
"Government programs alone cannot change people's lives," he added. "But they can help or hinder, thwart or support the efforts of good people to change the way things have been. This new LMH center is a force for good that will help make our community ever more stronger, vibrant and more prosperous."
In 2020, 61% of LISC Toledo FOC participants who received at least three bundled services achieved a key financial outcome. Proponents say that's a major feat for the majority of the Lucas County participants, who at the time of enrollment were living below the poverty line.
"FOCs build families' and individuals' financial capability by offering them a suite of services, including employment assistance, financial education and coaching, as well as access to income supports," said LISC Toledo Vice President Midwest and Executive Director Kim Cutcher. "Through one-on-one interaction and education offered at trusted community-based organizations, these bundled services reinforce one another to maximize impact."
Key outcomes from 2020 data among LISC's Greater Toledo FOC participants include:
• 54% increased their net income by an average of $898 per month.
• 32% improved their credit scores by an average of 39 points.
• 222 individuals placed in unsubsidized jobs with an average starting wage of $13.49 per hour.
• Over 500 households received emergency rental assistance, totaling nearly $2 million.
"With our residents and partners, LISC Toledo, the City of Toledo, the United Way of Greater Toledo and now LMH, we will continue to help forge resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across Lucas County - promoting great places to live, work, visit, do business and raise families," said UWGT President and CEO Wendy Pestrue.
"The addition of LMH to our FOC partner lineup is a wise and valuable investment by LMH to support homegrown talent that will prepare people for the quality jobs employers must fill to prosper and grow, while also ensuring our region will remain competitive in a 21st-century global economy," Pestrue said.
Nationally, LISC has a network of nearly 80 FOCs in 15 states that are embedded in local community organizations known for their history of providing quality services and that work with more than 20,000 people each year.
Lucas County residents are encouraged to contact their nearest FOC by calling 211 to learn more or schedule an appointment for FOC support.