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Changing lives with Financial Opportunity Center at Tempe Community Action Agency
Tasha Perry isn’t one to let life’s setbacks throw her off course.
When temporary jobs ended, she jumped on the next one in hopes of landing a permanent position. When bad credit derailed plans for an apartment, she scraped together enough for a hotel room to avoid being on the streets with her three kids. When needed, she sought out assistance to cover basics like utility bills.
Through all the uncertainty, she kept looking ahead. What eventually came into view changed her life.
The Financial Opportunity Center at Tempe Community Action Agency (TCAA) helped guide Perry through a range of decisions about her career, finances, education and housing.
Today, she is thriving at her full-time job with benefits and is settling into a new apartment with her two youngest kids. Her oldest daughter is a freshman in college and Perry herself is thinking about going back to school.
“Everything is falling into place,” she said. “I just needed a little boost to get me back to where I needed to be.”
After a successful pilot program last year, TCAA is opening the city’s only Financial Opportunity Center. The center helps low to moderate income individuals develop effective money habits and strengthen their financial status.
The center - developed in partnership with Local Initiative Support Corp. (LISC) and with support from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and State Farm - is an ideal fit for TCAA’s range of programs and services designed to foster self-reliance.
Community action agencies intentionally offer integrated services so they can be used in combination to solve poverty-related issues, said TCAA Executive Director Deborah Arteaga.
“With the opening of the Financial Opportunity Center we can respond quickly when an individual or family is prepared to improve their financial status and become a more productive citizen,” she said.
TCAA will celebrate the new Financial Opportunity Center May 14 with LISC and community partners. The event welcomes both TCAA and the Arouet Foundation into LISC’s network of 80 centers nationwide, and recognizes funders including Wells Fargo and MetLife.
TCAA is a longstanding partner of the City of Tempe and Tempe Community Council (TCC), which administers roughly $1.2 million in city human services funding. Through its Agency Review process, TCC has consistently funded TCAA and this year awarded $350,000 for programs that assist people with short-term financial needs, hunger relief, emergency shelter and senior independence.
“Organizations like TCAA provide vital services for a variety of households – families with children, single adults, seniors and individuals with disabilities,” said TCC Executive Director Octavia Harris. “Through Agency Review and our community partnerships, we can help community members in crisis get the help they need to move toward stability in their daily lives, whether that is preventing evictions, reducing food insecurity or helping seniors age in place.”
The Financial Opportunity Center offers a range of services, including: income supports such as SNAP enrollment, food boxes and utility assistance; employment assistance like resume and job search development; and financial coaching to tackle things like budgeting and credit counseling.
Dreaming of a better future
Those services were a perfect fit for Perry as she struggled to land a better job and find affordable housing for her family. She was also putting off reviewing her credit report out of fear.
Armed with an associate’s degree in social services and some schooling in massage therapy, Perry dreamed about a new career path and more financial security.
Working with the center and coach Anahi Stephenson, Perry found a temporary job and received help with needs such as bus passes. She began addressing issues in her credit report.
She landed a full-time job with a cellular company through a previous connection and secured a Housing Choice Voucher for a subsidized two-bedroom apartment in Tempe. Stephenson was as much coach as cheerleader.
“My default is to stay positive and keep moving forward,” Perry said. “Each little step was geared toward getting a job, getting back on track financially. But Anahi also was helping build up my self-esteem and reminding me that I’m a good mom.”
On a recent weekday, Perry and her 7-year-old son stood waiting for a bus to get to elementary school. Out of the blue, her son told her, “I love life!”
“I’ve never heard him say anything like that,” Perry said.
To learn more about TCAA and the Financial Opportunity Center: www.tempeaction.org.
Media contact: Susie Steckner - firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-734-5186