New Program Offers Financial Counseling to Those in Need

Nov 14, 2013

Learning how to budget and save is something everyone can benefit from, even people who barely have a penny to their name.

That’s the idea behind so-called Financial Empowerment Centers Seattle is setting up with a $1.8 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

At Neighborhood House, based in the mixed-income public housing project Rainier Vista in south Seattle, director Mark Okizaki, says he sees families struggling.

“Not a day goes by here at Neighborhood House that a family doesn't come to us in crisis, in need. Some of the hardest conversations that happen are actually in our lobby where a father walks in and says, 'You know, it’s OK if I go hungry tonight, but not my children, not my children,” Okizaki said.

So you might think that the last thing that father needs is financial counseling. But Okazaki says in order to end the cycle of poverty, helping the dad do a better job of planning for expenses is as important as helping him get training or a job. 

Nadia Olusola came to Neighborhood House four months ago. She’d just finished a vocational training program, but she was still out of work and homeless.

She says when Neighborhood House suggested she work with a financial coach, she initially thought, “How could that help me when I don’t even have finances?”

But, she says, it made her think about her future.

“And the resources that I did get from friends and family—I thought about not consuming as much and saving a little bit more than what I had, and that was a different mindset. So it changed my mindset in terms of what money really is,” she said.

Olusola now has a place to live and a job working for a company that makes parts for Boeing.

In addition to the Financial Empowerment Center in Neighborhood House, the grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation will fund satellite centers in West Seattle, the Central District, downtown, and North Seattle.

Advocates for the centers point out that one in 10 Seattle residents live below the poverty line.