In the morning, Operation HOPE and our partner Regions Bank, will announce Phase I of our commitment to serving St.Louis, MO and the areas surrounding Ferguson, MO. Phase I has us operating within an existing bank branch within one mile of Ferguson, MO, and Phase II will have the first HOPE Inside, St. Louis located within a new, completely remodeled Regions Bank location serving the same area.
In this HOPE Inside, we will provide HUD certified mortgage counseling, certified consumer credit counseling, mortgage mitigation (restructuring of subprime loans), FDIC endorsed financial literacy curriculum, SBA endorsed training for entrepreneurship and small business, a national outreach office for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the bundling of public services, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and in the future, U.S. Treasury’s MyIRA savings program, FEMA endorsed emergency financial disaster preparedness, response and recovering services, along with other services. All work in a HOPE Inside location lead to HOPE 700 Credit Score Communities.
Many of the communities that you and I care about, are 500 credit score communities. Many unscrupulous companies are preying on what I call ‘500 credit score customers and communities.
Our work, led by Lance Triggs and his HOPE Adult Empowerment Division, has perfected a process of raising credit scores as much as 120 points over 24 months.
And while all of this is vitally important, this is also personal to me. Very. My mother, Juanita Smith, and her family grew up and many still live in East St. Louis, or approximately 10 miles from Ferguson, MO.
The real problem in places like Ferguson and East St. Louis is poverty and a jack of jobs. As I keep saying, Middle Class neighborhoods don’t riot. Only poor neighborhoods riots. Our work is focused on battering poverty, at its core. As my friend Van Jones likes to say, “the best way to stop a bullet is a job.” I agree with him.
Let’s see what comes in St. Louis. We plan, to make a difference there.
John Hope Bryant