Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A little background about the economic development project we're working on...

This is a little 'formal' - but it gives a clear overview on the project we're currently working on... The bottom line issue is that we're focused on dealing with systematic and generational poverty that keeps people in bondage. I'm tired of dealing with issues that are the outcomes of povety - violence, anger, dispair. I feel that the power of the Gospel lies with the ability to deal directly wiht the heart of people - and the root causes of their dispair.

NCUDC is a non profit, faith based organization. Our mission is to transform Northern California’s urban communities by addressing systemic and generational poverty through economic and community development projects.
Our Board was formed in 2005 by a group of seasoned professionals. Its members are experienced leaders in business development, banking, marketing, administration, community service, and management of non-profit and for profit organizations. NCUDC is presently focused on an economic development project for East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park.

With a population of roughly 40,000, having only one bank has been financially challenging to the community, 93% of which is composed of Latino and African-American residents. Identifying challenges such as poor education, deteriorating family structure, endemic poverty, and all forms of racial discrimination is not as difficult as one might expect. These issues are well known and well documented. Finding the solutions to meet underlying needs and provide for positive outcomes are the issues on which NCUDC is focused.

An economically distressed community like East Palo Alto has needs most commercial banks are ill-equipped to meet. Banks are not accustomed to entry level financial products that deal with barriers common to a minority demographic. Barriers include; communication with non-English speaking customers, consistent patterns of high spending and low savings, and a delinquent or nonexistent credit history. This is the gap in services NCUDC will address by starting a credit union that will focus on breaking the cycle of poverty in this community.

By employing models that have been proven to work with a similar population make-up and economic history; the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) will provide savings and checking accounts, check cashing, international money orders, car loans and mortgages. Despite a variety of benefits, this endeavor will instantly provide an alternative to the often-predatory check cashing and payday loan services widely used in the community. For example, it is common for a payday loan to charge over 600% interest (APR). Check cashing fees add up to hundreds of dollars annually, a burden for many with low- income occupations. This has developed into common practice due to the lack of affordable and pertinent financial services. Our goal in the end is to place more money into the hands of the people who earned it. The credit union will also provide a mechanism offering courses in financial management thus developing better financial practices that will lead to self-sufficiency among its patrons.

On a community level, the CDFI will foster initiatives that encourage self–dependence, entrepreneurship, and personal initiatives such as micro-enterprise loans and small business development. We will provide technical assistance and consulting services to existing community organizations, emerging organizations and local businesses.
NCUDC’s focus on East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park has garnered the support of the community itself. Over 20 faith-based and nonprofit community leaders have pledged their support for NCUDC’s initiative. We fundamentally believe that a group of dedicated people, committed to working together can solve any problem.

Growing savings and investment accounts, owning homes, and reducing financial stress on families is the reason we are working towards the goal of opening a CDFI branch by the end of 2006. In spite of having the overwhelming support of the community, the immediate need requires the raising of start up capital. The community’s needs are obvious, the plan identified, now we look forward to those who will step up, catch the vision, and help make it a reality.

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