Hawaii Community Assets establishes credit program for houseless families

First-Hand Report
Hawaii Independent Staff

WAIANAE—Local nonprofit Hawaiian Community Assets (HCA) was awarded $316,678 from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) in April to establish Renter Matched Savings and Credit Builder Loan Programs for houseless families living in transitional shelters on the Waianae Coast. 

The funding will also support HCA’s delivery of its 3-year project to provide financial literacy/renter education and credit counseling to 300 transitional shelter residents to allow for successful transition into permanent housing.

“During financial education workshops and credit counseling, project participants identified a lack of money and access to credit as two major barriers keeping them for successfully transitioning into permanent housing,” said HCA program coordinator Jeff Gilbreath. “We want to mahalo OHA for this funding, which will allow us in Hawaii to address these issues by establishing financial products that are specific to the lifestyles of our ‘homeless’ families and rooted in the concept of shared responsibility.”

The Renter Matched Savings Program will be based off HCA’s existing Homebuyer and Youth MATCH Savings Programs and will provide project participants with a 5:1 match on savings up to $500 for a total of $3,000 to cover the costs of rental and utility deposits, moving expenses, and other costs associated with securing a rental apartment. Participants will be required to engage in individualized credit counseling and family financial education workshops to receive their match.

According to Gilbreath, current asset limits on public benefits often dissuade Hawaii’s “homeless” population from building adequate savings out of fear that it could keep them from accessing said benefits in order to compliment their monthly income to cover basic living expenses.

“The matched savings and Credit Builder Loan programs are vehicles for us to encourage long-term savings habits and asset building strategies among our homeless families without selling poverty as a solution to our economic struggles,” Gilbreath said.

HCA’s Credit Builder Loan Program was launched in December 2010 through its nonprofit lending program, Hawaii Community Lending. The Credit Builder Loans are fixed at a 6 percent interest rate over a term of 12 months with the maximum loan amount at $250. HCA secures the loans allowing them to function as a forced savings product as well, in which participants “re-pay” over a 1 year period and once the loan is repaid in-full, receive their $250 back. To-date HCA has a portfolio of 10 individuals who have been current with their payments for the last 6 months.

In order to expand financial services and products to underserved families statewide, HCA is reaching out to local banks, credit unions, foundations, and the general public to invest in Hawaii’s “homeless” families through its Renter Matched Savings and Credit Builder Loan Programs.

To invest in HCA or setup a presentation on how to support such programs, contact HCA program coordinator Jeff Gilbreath at (808) 587-7653 or [email protected].