Peoria’s First Financial Opportunity Center

by Brandon Holmes
Greater Peoria LISC

This newly-launched program will connect families to jobs and long-term financial coaching.

Low-income families in Peoria have a new resource to help them establish financial stability and pull themselves out of poverty with the recent opening of the city’s first Financial Opportunity Center (FOC), located in the South Side community. The program is part of a national network created by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to help residents find good jobs, improve their credit, build savings and expand their overall net worth. In 2013 alone, it reached more than 20,000 people across the country with multiple financial services to improve their economic outlook.

In Peoria, LISC has joined forces with METEC, a local nonprofit housing resource center, to launch the river city’s first FOC program. The new program model expects to reach 200 Peoria residents with employment services, financial coaching and targeted financial services in its first year. LISC’s FOC work in Peoria is primarily funded by State Farm, which supports similar LISC efforts all over the country. Since 2000, LISC and State Farm have worked together to invest more than $114 million in affordable housing, economic development, community safety and other key aspects of helping lift low-income communities.

Financial Opportunity Centers are unique because they focus on the myriad economic challenges that disadvantaged families face every day. There is no simple one-off solution. It takes a comprehensive approach and a long-term commitment to helping them move forward. That’s what FOCs do.

LISC, a national nonprofit focused on revitalizing distressed neighborhoods, opened its doors in Peoria in 2013, focusing on bringing new affordable housing and businesses, safer streets and youth programs to the East Bluff and South Side neighborhoods. The new FOC builds on those early efforts, recognizing that family financial stability is critical in helping to build good places to live and work.

For METEC, becoming a Financial Opportunity Center fits within its mission of empowering individuals to improve their financial well-being, says Cheryll Boswell, executive director. “The FOC allows METEC to expand our capacity to help families increase their household income, and obtain gainful employment.” LISC currently supports 71 FOCs in 30 cities. All operate on the same basic principle—that if we integrate services focused on employment, strong credit, realistic budgets and savings plans, and wrap them in long-term financial counseling, then low-income residents can build a different future for themselves and their children.

“This is part of our overall efforts to make sure our communities are places of growth and opportunity for families,” says Michael Rubinger, LISC president and CEO. “We can build good housing and schools. We can revive commercial corridors and reduce crime. But if we can’t help families expand their incomes and save for the future, we leave too many people behind. FOCs help close that gap.” The new FOC operates from METEC’s office at 2605 West Krause Avenue in Peoria. iBi

Brandon Holmes is executive director with Greater Peoria LISC. For more information, visit liscpeoria.org.

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