Habitat Montco’s financial empowerment program, Almost Home, aims to help families across Montgomery County become financially stable. Habitat Montco launched the Almost Home program in October 2015 to more holistically work with families struggling to find or maintain stable, affordable housing.
What is financial stability?
Financial stability is a family’s ability to weather a crisis, emergency, or unplanned event without being thrown into financial chaos. It is having an emergency fund and 3-6 months of living expenses saved away. It is not being burdened by excessive debt or penalized for a poor credit score. Financial stability is when a family’s money works for them instead of controlling them.
Across the United States, financial literacy skills are not taught in school systems, resulting in a large knowledge gap when it comes to money management. Habitat Montco receives hundreds of applications for its Home Buying and Critical Home Repair Programs, but often, families are not yet financially stable enough to qualify for the programs. The Almost Home Program works with families over an intensive 8-week period to set goals, learn skills sets, and change financial behaviors. Topics covered address the major causes of financial and housing instability, including budgeting, credit, cash flow, debt, project management, dealing with legal issues, planning for retirement, managing student loans, purchasing insurance, writing a resume, obtaining employment, and buying a home. Some sessions are taken from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University curriculum and other sessions are facilitated by partner organizations.
Habitat Montco’s Almost Home Program focuses on overall behavior change, not just small, quick fixes. The program teaches financial empowerment tools to which families can return time and time again. Almost Home also focuses on how families can teach these financial empowerment tools to their children and arm them with important money management skills from a young age. Financial stability is grounded in money management habits and research shows that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Habitat Montco establishes a supportive class environment in which families can both help motivate each other and hold each other accountable.
In addition to group classes, each participant works one-on-one with a financial coach to review his/her current financial situation and create a success plan. Financial coaches work with families for a minimum of four hours over the 8-week course and continue to work with the family for one year following the program. Financial coaches provide crucial individualized coaching to families focused on the family’s financial and housing goals.
Desired Outcomes for Participants:
- Gain a tangible skill set to help weather future financial challenges
- Understand services available within Montgomery County
- Decrease debt and live within means
- Access better employment opportunities
- Complete education
- Resolve legal issues
- Begin legacy planning and planning for retirement
- Have a structured set of goals and action timelines facilitated by a financial coach
- Avoid foreclosure and condemnation
- Purchase a home through Habitat, a grant program, or a traditional mortgage, or
- Move into a stable, affordable rental property
The Almost Home Program is free and open to all residents of Montgomery County. Participants range from prospective home buyers to current homeowners struggling to maintain their homes to families looking to break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. Habitat Montco offers childcare and meals free of charge over the course of the program to ensure that a diversity of families can access these services.
To see results of the program, click here: Course Results
Click this video to see what one of our inaugural participants had to say about the course!