Almost Home Program

By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director  

Almost Home
Improving Housing Situations and Lives

Here at Habitat, we work with hundreds of families every year determining their readiness for home ownership. In fact, since the launch of the county’s response to homelessness, Your Way Home, we have seen a significant increase in these families reaching out, hoping to become part of our home ownership program. Families who contact us are typically not homeless and thus do not qualify for Your Way Home, but rather they are living in less that desirable situations – paying too much for housing, living with relatives, or living in overcrowded dwellings. Unfortunately, a large majority of these families contacting us are not quite ready to own homes of their own, but with a little push could be ready within a few months or a few years. In the past, families who weren’t ready were left discouraged by us and others – they had no plan and few avenues for help. There are many organizations throughout the county that do great work around financial literacy or life skills or job skills, but to the families trying to move forward, it has been difficult to make a comprehensive plan, focusing on all of these intertwined issues in one place. Habitat observed that there were a few a comprehensive approaches to changing habits that were negatively impacting families abilities to move forward, but they were spread out geographically and often possessed significant waiting lists.  

It was with this growing list of people and the need for these services in mind, that Habitat recently created the “Almost Home” pilot program. Almost Home is a 6 week, 12 session, 2-hour course designed to help families make a plan for improving their housing situation as well as their lives.

Having gone through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University model myself several years ago, I recognized that the information and practical real world approach to finances that Dave provides would be an ideal cornerstone for the financial literacy piece of Almost Home. Each module (and there are 12!) addresses things like creating a safety net, budgeting, dumping debt, the role of insurance, education savings, and more. Habitat has partnered with Dave Ramsey to provide each family with a Financial Peace University kit with a workbook, CD’s and it even includes the envelope system! In addition to the Financial Peace U. programming, Almost Home has brought in a panel of experts to deal with financial aid and finishing an education, networking, resume writing, interviewing, creating a will and more. Finally, each family is assigned a financial coach who helps them identify their goals and create a plan for meeting those goals long-term. These coaches work with the families through the class and beyond, helping them stay on track with the goals they’ve created.

When complete, the seven participating families will graduate with a budget, a plan and 24 hours that will apply toward their “sweat equity” if they decide to pursue a Habitat home. If they decide that a Habitat home is not for them, families will still have a plan for their next steps – finishing college, finding a long-term affordable rental, buying a home with a traditional mortgage, getting a better job, etc.

Although the class has only been in full swing since October 13, already Habitat has seen some promising results. One participant sold $600 worth of items to help lower her debt, while another is looking for a second job to address some financial challenges. Three of the eight families have decided that this is such important information that they are passing it along to their children to create better financial lives at a very early age.

In addition, word has spread about the class and we’ve had several inquiries hoping Habitat will host another class in the spring. Therefore, Habitat has decided to host the next session beginning March 29th. If you are interested in lending your expertise, providing a meal, helping with child care, or participating, please contact Darrel Daniels at ddaniels@habitatmontco.org.