Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC)
Neighborhood Allies, with technical support from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and financial support from local partners, launched three Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) in January 2015 in/around Pittsburgh to help low and moderate income families build assets and attain financial stability and upward mobility.
In just one year of operations, our local network of FOCs have provided bundled services to 526 individuals. 363 people have obtained employment and 315 have increased their net income. Read our 2015 Financial Opportunity Center Impact Statement to learn more and meet some local folks benefiting from the services provided at FOCs in Pittsburgh!
Families across the Pittsburgh region have a new resource to achieve financial stability with the formation of three FOCs that formally launched in early 2015. Based on the Center for Working Families model developed by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, FOCs provide an integrated or “bundled” set of three core services: 1) employment services, 2) financial education and coaching, and 3) access to income supports.
The FOC model focuses on improving the financial bottom line for low-to moderate-income families and helping people change their financial behavior in a way that encourages a long-term commitment to increasing income, decreasing expenses, building credit, and acquiring assets. The key elements for a successful FOC include:
- On-site employment services (job placement, retention, career counseling/coaching and other services that address career advancement)
- On-site one-on-one financial education and coaching
- On-site access to income supports (public benefits, tax return preparation, etc.)
- Intentional/well-planned integration of the three core services
- Data tracking to improve program performance
The immediate aim of the centers is to help clients increase monthly net income, which can be achieved several different ways: access to income-boosting benefits like SNAP, utility assistance, or children’s health insurance; securing or retaining a job, or obtaining more gainful employment that provides a higher wage; and budgeting assistance and credit counseling. For many working families the cycle of negative monthly net income creates a sense of futility around finances and work. When monthly cash flow moves from negative to positive, career advancement becomes part of a larger picture of financial stability, and FOC clients feel encouraged and empowered to address credit, savings, and longer-term career planning. The core services of the Financial Opportunity build upon each other and individual plans are tailored to each individual’s needs.
Neighborhood Allies serves as the funding and technical assistance provider for these centers locally, and brings training in best practices, guidance in the launch process, access to local and national funding relationships, promotions and communications, and shared data management software to track outcomes. Funding received from the Hillman Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, the Roy A. Hunt Foundation, and LISC were combined to support the opening of three centers:
- Mon Valley Initiative was awarded $100,000 to add a financial coach and support an existing employment services program based in Homestead that has an effective job-readiness curriculum, connections with employers, and expertise for clients with criminal convictions
- Oakland Planning and Development Corporation was awarded $100,000 to support the JobLinks program that is based in Oakland and serves the region with job-readiness assistance and skills training in the health care industry
- Goodwill Southwestern Pennsylvania was awarded $75,000 to develop employment services and financial coaching at the Northside Common Ministries site, which serves 10,000 people from the Northside each year at their food pantry.