The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) and Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) hosted a ceremony for 129 graduates of the “Make Your Money Talk” financial education course on Tuesday, December 15, 2015 at HACM Community Services, 650 W. Reservoir.
The event provided an opportunity for HACM, WWBIC, and family and friends to recognize the graduates’ commitment to setting and achieving budgetary goals and working towards self-sufficiency. The ceremony marked the largest graduating class since the program’s inception in 2004. More than 1,500 individuals have completed the four-class course since its beginning.
The event also featured a keynote speech from Mayor Tom Barrett and presentations from past graduates who have utilized the program to move out of public housing into homes they purchased.
“This program changes lives in dramatic ways, because it provides the education and tools people need to make those changes for themselves all throughout their lives,” said Mayor Barrett.
Students learn to set and stick to a budget, how to protect and build their credit history, and real-world strategies for saving money on a tight budget. Graduates with employment income are eligible to open an Individual Development Account (IDA) that matches each dollar they save with up to eight dollars to be used towards the purchase of a home, education costs, or starting a business.
Tianna Woods and Shanay Anderson, both past graduates of the program, each spoke about how the education course and the IDA program helped them to become homeowners.
Woods closed on her home – a Habitat for Humanity home that she helped to build – in March of this year after living in public housing for 11 years with her son and daughter. By saving diligently through her IDA account, she was able to pay the closing costs, homeowner’s insurance for the first year, and some of the principal on the loan.
“I did this so that my kids and I could have a place to call our own,” said Woods.
Anderson also purchased her home this year after living with her mother for years in HACM’s Westlawn neighborhood. She utilized her IDA funds to purchase her home through HACM’s Homeownership Program, which rehabs abandoned and foreclosed homes and makes them available for sale to new owners.
“When they say this program can help you, believe me it can,” said Anderson.
A total of 793 graduates have opened IDAs since 2004. Ninety-one IDA holders have used their IDA funds to purchase a home, 63 have invested in post-secondary education, and 42 have created or developed a small business.
IDA holders have saved over $460,000 that has been matched with over $1.3 million.
“We find inspiration in the ways our residents achieve great things for themselves, their families and their community by combining their commitment to a personal goal with opportunities like “Make Your Money Talk” and the IDA program,” said HACM Secretary-Executive Director Tony Pérez.
The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee provides affordable housing options to more than 10,000 Milwaukee families. In addition, the Housing Authority works with families to achieve self-sufficiency through economic, health and social programs.