Through its Financial Opportunity Center, Habitat for Humanity Findlay/Hancock County in Ohio offers barrier-free financial, employment and income-support coaching to all community members. The individualized and confidential support helps low-income residents reduce debt, improve credit and in many cases, become mortgage ready.

Financial coaching at Habitat helps residents reach goals

Story at a glance

  • To provide barrier-free financial, employment and income-support coaching to all community members, Habitat for Humanity Findlay/Hancock County launched its Financial Opportunity Center in April 2021.
  • Since launching, the program has partnered with more than 650 people, improved 78% of their clients’ credit scores and helped 58 community members boost their monthly income by $700 on average.

Financial coaching is one part of Habitat’s homeownership process, helping aspiring homeowners improve their financial situation and move them closer to achieving mortgage readiness.

When Drea started financial coaching with Ohio’s Habitat for Humanity Findlay/Hancock County in 2021, she was struggling with personal challenges that had burdened her with mounting debt and a low credit score.

In just two years of working with Habitat Findlay’s Financial Opportunity Center, Drea has boosted her credit score, erased longstanding debt and moved into her own place for the first time.

“My dream — always my whole life — was to be independent,” Drea says. “When you feel hopeless and you see no way out, there really is a way out. Now I think about the future.”

The approach: Accessible, individualized coaching

Habitat Findlay’s Financial Opportunity Center was established in April 2021 to provide barrier-free financial, employment and income-support coaching.

The Financial Opportunity Center model was designed by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a national nonprofit that provides strategic support and funding to 130 centers across the U.S.

A man in a blue shirt inside a conference room.

Financial Opportunity Center coach Phil Brock spends much of his time visiting clients at homeless shelters, addiction-recovery groups or women’s resource centers.

The center’s financial coaching is available not only to prospective Habitat homeowners but to everyone in the community, filling a much-needed gap and helping residents reach their financial goals. Dustin Fuller, manager of Habitat Findlay’s Financial Opportunity Center, and Phil Brock, the center’s coach, make frequent rounds in the community, providing confidential and individualized coaching through local homeless shelters, women’s resource centers and addiction-recovery groups.

Dustin says the center is built to “meet people where they’re at.” For Dustin and Phil, that means using a people-centered, listen-first approach to building trust with their clients and addressing their specific needs and goals, including:

  • Building credit.

  • Increasing savings.

  • Refining budgets.

  • Paying off debt.

“Life happens to every single person uniquely. This program is designed to be adaptable. Support is not one-size-fits-all because we as humans are all different,” says Dustin.

The center listens to and responds to the community, adding services to help address rising needs. For instance, the center helps residents lease computers and laptops, access a reliable and affordable internet connection and attend digital literacy trainings through UNIFI, a digital navigation program launched in 2023.

Drea, who doesn’t drive, rents one of the laptops available in Habitat Findlay’s inventory and relies on it to virtually attend health appointments.

A woman in a colorful sweater.

Habitat Findlay, led by Wendy McCormick, launched its Financial Opportunity Center in April 2021 after leaders of local social service organizations recognized that residents in Hancock County, Ohio, lacked access to barrier-free financial coaching.

The impact: Tangible results

In just two years of operation, the program is already delivering tangible, client-driven results.

Since its launch, the Financial Opportunity Center has:

  • Partnered with 650 people.
  • Improved 78% of their clients’ credit scores, with an average rise of 32 points.
  • Provided 58 community members with income-support coaching, boosting their monthly net income by an average of $700.

The clients — ranging in age from a 17-year-old seeking financial advice upon leaving foster care to an 84-year-old looking to maximize her savings — work with coaches to shape their own goals.

“We’re asking them ‘What does support look like for you?’ We’re not telling them what they should do. We can invest as much individualized time and energy as people want to invest in themselves,” Dustin says.

Building on financial success

Many clients take the financial success they build with the center and keep going — applying and getting accepted into the affiliate’s homeownership program, says Habitat Findlay’s executive director Wendy McCormick.

“Since we’ve started the center, we’ve seen a tremendous change in such a short period of time,” Wendy says. “We’re seeing more families who are now ready take that next step toward owning a home.

Financial education

As a part of the homeownership process, we believe financial education builds a more solid foundation for long-term personal success and helps alleviate any concerns or barriers on the path to homeownership.

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