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Community Report

How we work together to create opportunities

For NeighborWorks America, the year 2016 was framed by the theme, "Creating Economic Opportunity." This theme, already a focus of our network organizations, became a rallying point for us—a thread that ran throughout all of our work, from the grants we awarded, to our event topics, to our offerings in professional development, training and education. Read more from our CEO.

“Together we are on an intellectual journey to add momentum
to the national conversation about creating economic opportunity.”
Paul Weech, president and CEO, NeighborWorks America
Resilient Communities

Resilient Communities

NeighborWorks organizations created and maintained more than 53,000 jobs.

Across the United States, there are 384 counties where the poverty rate has exceeded 20 percent for three consecutive decades. In many of these counties, residents must drive many miles to access basic financial services or, more likely, go unbanked.

In 2015, Regions Bank needed to consolidate its operations in the Mississippi Delta and close its branches in several communities facing persistent poverty. Building on their longstanding relationship, Hope Enterprise Corp./Hope Credit Union (HOPE) and Regions Bank worked together to develop a solution: re-open the former Regions locations as HOPE branches. Regions donated its facilities, provided information about HOPE to its customers and offered grant funding to support start-up costs. This partnership enabled continual financial services for several towns serving more than 2,000 residents, 9 of 10 of whom are African-American.

The branches' loan officers now review applications through a community-development lens. If a member of the credit union is not ready for a loan, someone from the HOPE team helps him or her develop a plan to get there. Likewise, ATMs were installed to ensure members and residents could quickly access cash, even when the credit union was closed.

In the first eight months of operation, more than 1,100 people opened accounts with HOPE in the new locations—proving good financial habits can be cultivated in areas of persistent poverty.

"Relationships matter, and meaningful partnerships facilitate the deepest impact."—Ed Sivak, chief policy and communications officer for HOPE Enterprise, a member of the NeighborWorks network

“We can't afford to have entire communities of people who are not participating in and benefitting from the recovery. We need to be very intentional about this.” Sandy Baruah, president of the Detroit Regional Chamber and speaker at the Detroit symposium, "Creating Places of Opportunity: Investing in Neighborhoods"

BCL of Texas works to build strong communities by infusing much-needed capital into the largely rural central area of the state, generating economic opportunities as a result. But it often takes a larger view, and exercises truly creative thinking, to take on social challenges at the same time.

One of those social challenges is the high prevalence of diabetes among the state's large Latino population. The solution developed by BCL of Texas: establish an olive-oil bottling facility, a companion restaurant and a network of farmers markets that promote healthy eating as well as create jobs. Partners include the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Texas Department of Agriculture and two local entrepreneurs. The results were a network of five farmers markets and two unique businesses: Salud de Paloma Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the O'liva Healthy Local Cuisine & Tasting Room. The former is the first company in the United States approved to distribute packets of olive oil at health fairs, doctors' offices, charter schools and similar places. The latter is a seasonal farm-to-table eatery where patrons can purchase the olive oil.

The partners' combined efforts have generated approximately $2 million in investment in healthy eating in San Antonio and the surrounding area. Social enterprise helps nonprofits both serve their communities and stay sustainable themselves by harnessing the creative power of business.

"Partnerships with entrepreneurs can result in economic development and solutions to social problems." —Rosa Rios Valdez, CEO of BCL of Texas, a member of the NeighborWorks network

Creative Collaboration

Creative Collaboration

For every $1 of federal appropriation, NeighborWorks organizations leverage another $91 from their partners to amplify impact.

“We can't just ask for more; we have to do better, together, with what we've got.” Jeff Edmondson, managing director of StriveTogether and speaker at the Atlanta symposium, "Creating Opportunity through Collaboration"
Sustainable Homes: Homeownership

Sustainable Homes: Homeownership

Georgia is one of the poorest states in the country; many of its residents are senior citizens forced to spend much of their limited income on housing. In Columbus, older homeowners often live in substandard housing with leaky roofs, rotting floors and inadequate or no plumbing or appliances.

To fill these residents' critical needs, NeighborWorks Columbus launched the Columbus Cottage Program in partnership with the city manager's Community Reinvestment Division. The program temporarily relocates elderly homeowners living in substandard housing while a new cottage is constructed on their property, resourced through a modest and affordable mortgage.

Qualified residents are counseled on the financing process and they move into temporary housing while a two-bedroom, energy-efficient cottage is built to provide a safe, healthy and dignified environment—allowing them to age in their own place. When residents move in, they take on an affordable first mortgage costing no more than 30 percent of their income.

The cottage program started as a charitable one-off and the homes were established as life estates that terminated upon the death of the recipients. However, it has evolved into a sustainable, mortgage-based program that provides safe, affordable housing to many of the city's most vulnerable residents.

NeighborWorks organizations created more than 21,000 new homeowners.

NeighborWorks organizations repaired 55,600 homes.

"A number of residents are falling between the cracks. To fill their critical needs, we created a public-private partnership." —Cathy Williams, president/CEO of NeighborWorks Columbus, a member of the NeighborWorks network

“A good home can serve as the sturdiest of footholds. When people have a place to live, they become better parents, workers and citizens.” Matthew Desmond, author of "Evicted" and speaker at the Washington, DC, symposium, "Creating Economic Opportunity: Sharing Strategies"
Sustainable Homes: Rentals

Sustainable Homes: Rentals

An estimated 100,000 veterans are homeless in the United States. Sometimes they live in dilapidated dwellings to avoid becoming homeless. Others have places to stay, but are in need of mental and physical health care, job training and financial assistance.

NeighborWorks Southern Mass has developed/assisted in creating 44 homes that cater to veterans and their families, and six more veterans' homes now are under development. Through partnerships with veterans' service agencies, residents also are provided emergency and permanent housing, job-skills training and other services.

One of the residents is a former Navy service member named Dave, who didn't want to ask for help. His personal struggles led him to live on his brother's couch. Realizing he no longer had a home, a car or any of the other defining aspects of independence, he reached out to NeighborWorks Southern Mass for help. Dave now lives in one of its Weymouth properties and works as a case manager for Volunteers of America.

Dave says, "Most people think of a veteran as someone who is missing a limb or has PTSD, but many of us are not that; we just need a little push to get back on our feet."

NeighborWorks organizations owned and/or managed 154,100 rental homes.

NeighborWorks organizations assisted 360,100 families with affordable housing.

"Without allies throughout our community, we would be unable to help our veterans gain the momentum that they need to thrive." —Robert Corley, executive director of NeighborWorks Southern Mass

“How we create opportunities for people with lower incomes to realize the American Dream is a defining question for our country.” Paul Weech, NeighborWorks America president and CEO, at Los Angeles symposium, "Race, Culture and Opportunity"
Engaged Neighbors

Engaged Neighbors

NeighborWorks organizations logged 2.4 million volunteer hours.

The area served by Little Dixie Community Action Agency in Hugo, Oklahoma, ranked among the highest in the state for drug and alcohol abuse by young people. Little Dixie set out to help turn that around with intensive youth outreach, and soon founded YouCo!, the first youth-led coalition in Choctaw County.

The program engages young people by directing their energy into civic engagement, including visits to city council meetings and community groups. The first big project YouCo! chose was "Take Back Ansley Park." In its heyday, Ansley Park offered recreation for residents and visitors and was frequently used for community events. Unfortunately, over time, the park fell into disrepair. A visit to the park revealed a tableau of empty containers, drug paraphernalia, bottles and trash. Members of YouCo! put together a plan of action to reclaim the park and presented it to the city council. It was unanimously approved.

With funds raised from a marketing campaign and with the help of 75 volunteers, the coalition and its supporters transformed the park into a community asset; crime is down and it remains clean, maintained and used by children and families daily. The park has been chosen as the future site for the Choctaw Veterans Monument.

"There is much to be offered and learned from the younger generation." —Rebecca Reynolds, executive director of Little Dixie Community Action Agency, a member of the NeighborWorks network

“The children most in need may not be in the neighborhoods we're investing in. We can't get to inclusion if we only focus on the strongest neighborhoods.” Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation and speaker at the Detroit symposium, "Creating Places of Opportunity: Investing in Neighborhoods"

Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, but many face barriers even after living here for many years. Asian seniors, in particular, struggle to understand and access services. Little Tokyo Service Center in Los Angeles was formed to fill this gap, and has since evolved into a multilingual community- development agency.

Among the most common requests is help with financial situations. In response, the nonprofit reached out to local banks and financial planners; together, they've developed a culturally appropriate counseling program.

Little Tokyo invites expert speakers to its financial workshops and provides simultaneous interpretation as well as translated materials, so those with limited English proficiency can learn and ask questions. Its staff now offers presentations in several Asian languages to residents of senior housing and social groups. The organization also cultivates relationships with ethnic media to reach an even broader audience.

"We encourage our staff to think about prevention, in addition to problem-solving after something has occurred." —Dean Matsubayashi, executive director of Little Tokyo Service Center, a member of the NeighborWorks network

Financial Stability

Financial Stability

The 2016 NeighborWorks Consumer Finance Survey found 28 percent of Americans have no emergency savings.

“Scarcity, that subjective sense of having more needs than resources, makes us less insightful, less forward-looking, less controlled.” Eldar Shafir, PhD, co-author of "Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much." and speaker at the Washington, DC, symposium, "Creating Economic Opportunity: Sharing Strategies"

Looking Forward

Blue bubble with a north star and text that reads: Read our strategic planFor NeighborWorks America, the year 2016 was framed by the theme, "Creating Economic Opportunity." Without opportunities that are available to people of all ages, incomes and races—whether to establish a home, build up savings, get an education or obtain a job—nothing else is possible. Families will not prosper, and neither will communities.

This theme, already a focus of our network organizations, became a rallying point for us—a thread that ran throughout all of our work, from the grants we awarded, to our event topics, to our offerings in professional development, training and education.

At the Wednesday symposia that anchored our NeighborWorks Training Institutes in 2016, we learned from the work of our network members and other experts how to create opportunities through cross-sector collaborations, examine our work through the lens of race and culture, and build strong communities through place-based strategies. We plan to continue our focus on creating opportunities throughout 2017, with a particular emphasis on pathways out of poverty.

Furthering the theme of creating economic opportunity, we convened in Phoenix to discuss mortgage lending in Indian Country—a continuation of our work to expand access to credit in underserved and low-wealth communities. We also met in St. Louis, where the community of Ferguson continues to heal. This series of expert convenings will continue in April, when we co-host "Hope in the Delta," a focused look at solutions for one of the country's most concentrated areas of persistent poverty.

In this report, we share some insights from our symposia speakers, along with a few examples of how NeighborWorks and its network strive to create opportunities for all, every single day. You can read more in our book, "NeighborWorks Works: Practical Solutions from America's Community Development Network."

Paul Weech, CEO

“Every community in America is a place of opportunity.” North star, NeighborWorks America strategic plan 2017-2021