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Kim Marshall, Content Editor12/19/2022

Given the scope and intersections of many of the issues that our communities face, partnerships serve as one way to combine resources and share strengths. Both the 2008 foreclosure crisis and the impact from COVID-19 have continued to demonstrate the complex links among housing, health, economic well-being and educational outcomes. And through both crises, partners leveraged NeighborWorks America's national reach through NeighborWorks network organizations for greater impact in addressing housing stability, improving financial stability and health, and supporting the crucial work of housing and community development professionals through training and flexible grant funding.  

Meeting the needs of residents facing housing instability 

Lee Anne Adams smiles at the camera"The reality is that millions of people continue to face housing instability," says Lee Anne Adams, NeighborWorks' senior vice president of National Initiatives.  

When individuals and families lose their homes, they face additional vulnerabilities with employment, their health and with scammers looking to take advantage of their stress. However, when families live in stable and affordable homes, they have breathing room. They are better able to spend and invest money and save for their and their children's futures.  

It's why NeighborWorks designed the Housing Stability Counseling Program, with the help of a diverse set of stakeholders, to meet the needs of households facing housing instability and ensure funds are released to housing counseling agencies throughout the nation as quickly as possible. 

As Adams explains, "It’s the work of NeighborWorks network organizations and other local community partners that is making a difference." 

How? "Partnerships are about sharing ideas, strengths and resources from different perspectives," shares Molly Barackman-Eder, director of Financial Capability. 

Achieving financial mobility and improving financial health 

Barackman-Eder highlighted one such partnership with JPMorgan Chase's investment in organizationsMolly Barackman-Eder smiles at the camera. across the country that field-tested solutions to improve an individual's financial health. This has helped build knowledge and financial coaching skills for NeighborWorks network organizations, which benefits renters, particularly Black and Latiné customers.  

"Because we collaborated with JPMorgan Chase through a peer learning cohort using financial coaching for rental housing stability, we were prepared to launch a guide to eviction prevention in summer 2020 near the start of the pandemic," says Barackman-Eder.  

NeighborWorks' financial capability team studied customer engagement and retention, and with a small group of six NeighborWorks network organizations, were able to train 50 other organizations on customer-centric approaches to financial health, meeting people where they were on their financial health journey rather than assuming a one-size-fits-all approach for everyone.  

"Working in partnership with JPMorgan Chase, we were able to emphasize what works on the ground, replicate successful models and chart the course for where NeighborWorks and its network need to be in the future," Barackman-Eder says.  

The results? Structuring a peer cohort of 18 organizations with three focus areas, resulting in better serving Black and Latiné customers.  
 
Supporting professionals and organizations through training 

"Partnerships are critical to the success of any endeavor and NeighborWorks' Training is no exception," says Douglas Sessions, senior vice president of Training.  

Theresa Padovano, senior director of National Training Institutes, adds that partnerships also allowTheresa Padovano smiles in a striped shirt. NeighborWorks to:  

  • Offer training to the broader community development and housing counseling field at affordable rates and through scholarships.  
  • Stay on the cutting edge of industry trends and remain proactive and responsive when working to address issues like rental eviction.  
  • Leverage resources to reach key demographics like Black, Latiné and Native American residents.  
  • Provide greater visibility through collaborations and expand reach for more impact. 
Through support of our partners, for example, community development professionals in 2022 earned certifications in homeownership counseling, pre-purchase homeownership education and rental eviction intervention.  

"Training scholarships made it possible for counselors to build their skills around these critical housing topics and increase the capacity of their organization to serve their customers," says Mahria Harris, senior manager of curriculum and training.  

It's the wide variety of training options that makes NeighborWorks a great partner, according to Brian Harvey, senior manager of place-based training and scholarships. "We have the staff and resources to support our partners with a wide variety of training – both in person and virtually. We can also customize training to help entire organizations move from basic to advanced knowledge." 

The COVID-19 pandemic is one example of how NeighborWorks moved quickly to expand enrollments, reaching more than 2,400 unique organizations in the field. According to Sessions, housing and community development professionals can look forward to another expansion in 2023 to support comprehensive community development – a resident-led approach to development that focuses on place and aims to improve lives and strengthen communities. 

In addition, expect to see enhanced learning options for executive leadership, nonprofit management and resident empowerment. NeighborWorks' Training team is also working to make more online courses available and update technology to lead peer-engagement learning trends.  

Meeting the greatest needs of our communities through flexible grants 

Katie Watts smiles at the camera.Flexible resources can be invaluable in helping organizations provide the highest quality service and meet the greatest needs of our communities. NeighborWorks distributes flexible grant funds to the nearly 250 nonprofit organizations that comprise the NeighborWorks network thanks to the strong financial support of U.S. Congress. Over its 44-year history, NeighborWorks has grown into a national force promoting affordable housing and community development in urban, suburban and rural communities.  

"Our flexible funding gives NeighborWorks network organizations the ability to strengthen their operations, innovate and respond to the dynamic environments that they operate in," says Katie Watts, senior vice president of Field Operations.  

It's also through NeighborWorks' partnership with its network members that it has leveraged its annual federal appropriation into billions of dollars of investments in local communities. Every year, these investments help expand access to affordable homes, open the door to homeownership to tens of thousands of people, create and maintain thousands of jobs and revitalize under-sourced communities.  

Ultimately, what makes NeighborWorks a great partner when it comes to community work? With its deep institutional memory, NeighborWorks looks for opportunities to share collective wins.  

Barackman-Eder adds, "We're great listeners and relationship builders. When you're talking to someone from NeighborWorks, we're processing what you're saying and how you're saying it. We're asking thoughtful questions – all to understand what you really want to achieve." 
 




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