(Photo © 2019, www.chorusphotography.com)
Psychology teaches us that there is a hierarchy of needs: a person must have stable access to food and shelter before achieving happiness.
Philabundance and Habitat for Humanity MontDel Co are teaming up to help low-income families check these necessities off their list in order to move forward.
“Once you address those two things, you can address a whole bunch of other things in your life,” said Marianne Lynch, CEO and president of Habitat MontDel Co. “Everybody deserves a chance for prosperity and happiness. Life shouldn’t be such a struggle all the time.”
The first cohort from Habitat and Philabundance’s joint program graduated from the program on a week ago. Several families identified by the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities spent six weeks taking financial literacy classes covering debt management, credit, lending and student loans. Now, these families will reinforce their learning with a financial coach, provided free of charge for five sessions.
"Everybody deserves a chance for prosperity and happiness."
Jared Minor and his family were one of the first to experience this program. He has four children, ages 13 to 25, and said the program gave him and his wife a guide to start saving for his kids’ college tuition.
“I think the most important thing we learned that will stick with us is to budget and save,” he said. “We need to start planning for not just our future but our children’s future.”
Lynch said saving is a key start to moving toward financial security. The partnership, she said, began after she realized Habitat and Philabundance both advised people to build an emergency savings fund of around $500.
"We all got to talk and share our experiences and how we’ll apply what we learned."
“There’s this sweet spot that can help a family weather the storm through a car repair or unexpected hospital bill or something like that,” she said. “We really found that there were three partners who could come together to work on family stability at the same time and address it in ways that would be complementary to each other.”
Habitat has now hosted six of these courses, but the one that just graduated was the first in conjunction with Philabundance. Since Habitat started offering them, Lynch said, the families have paid off over $110,000 in debt, and 94 percent of them graduate with an emergency fund.
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In the new program, Habitat hosts the classes complete with complimentary childcare and food, while Philabundance assists the participating families by providing food for day-to-day life. PCRC helps to keep families on track after graduating from the program.
Minor said though the information he was taught was extremely helpful, the people he met during the program were “amazing.”
“There’s no other way to put it,” he said. “They’re excited for you. We all got to talk and share our experiences and how we’ll apply what we learned moving forward in our lives.”
“The participants become a community and they really encourage each other to meet their financial goals,” Lynch added. “We want them to feel more empowered and feel like their financials are sustainable moving forward.”
Lynch said she feels a connection with the people she works with because she went through housing and food insecurity in her early 30s. She and her toddler son had to move several times because rent prices were rising.
“The idea of having a stable place to live was something that was so ingrained in me,” she said. “I decided if I ever get to a place where I’m stable and have a roof over my head, I’m going to help other people do it.”
She eventually found a home in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which she said is a spot where growing poverty levels are often overlooked.
“Philadelphia is one of the most generous cities I’ve ever been in,” she said. “But it’s also a city of the haves and have nots. The vast poverty that bleeds out into the suburbs is really frustrating when it’s such a wealthy community.”
She said partnering with three like-minded groups will allow them to make change on a deeper level than they could do alone.
“I encourage others to start thinking about collaborating with others outside of their wheelhouse to see what they can accomplish,” she added.-30-
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