In 2013, the City of Denver was awarded a three-year $1.9 million Financial Empowerment Centers grant from Living Cities. The Financial Empowerment Centers program is part of a national effort to improve the financial stability of households by integrating high-quality, one-on-one financial education and counseling into existing public and nonprofit programs to achieve multiple outcomes for clients. Financial Empowerment Centers are located in areas with high concentrations of poverty and financial distress. Counseling services are conducted by trained and accredited professionals and are available to the public, free of charge.
As a growing City, poverty in Denver is sometimes hidden, but approximately 21% of the city’s 600,000 residents live below the federal poverty level and many more live below a level of true self-sufficiency. 36,000 families are estimated to be functioning outside the financial mainstream, with many using high cost financial services in place of conventional banking. 188,000 residents (31% of the population) rely on federal assistance programs through the Department of Human Services. Others turn to nonprofit providers to help meet basic needs. Financial counseling and financial literacy efforts, particularly when delivered in concert with additional stabilization services, can be strong tools to move families out of poverty and toward self-sufficiency.
The Financial Empowerment Centers program is being led locally by the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships (DOSP), a City office designed to build integrated partnerships between local government and nonprofit organizations. DOSP is partnering in service delivery with mpowered, a Colorado-based nonprofit resource for individuals and families who want to learn about money management, participate in coaching to overcome financial challenges, and achieve financial stability. The Community College of Denver is serving as the academic partner who will train and certify the financial counselors.
Counseling services will be offered full-time at a hub center located in the Denver Human Services Castro Building at 1200 Federal Blvd, along with three primary satellite sites located at the Office of Economic Development’s Speer and Montbello Workforce Centers and the Tramway Nonprofit Center in northeast Denver. Counselors will also provide services on a regular basis at six to eight additional nonprofit sites located throughout the city by year end. Designed to provide services over a three year period, the program will provide 2,970 counseling sessions to low-income Denver households in the first year alone.
The program will focus on important outcomes such as opening a safe and affordable bank account, establishing or improving credit scores, decreasing debt, increasing savings, and establishing regular savings habits. In addition to financial counseling, the model also has a strong focus on integrating with other services driving toward self-sufficiency, including benefits enrollment, family stabilization services, workforce training and job placement, housing, and other supports.
For more information or to get involved please contact Jay Salas at firstname.lastname@example.org.