By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Would you like some CASH? Today we’ll meet an organization that doesn’t just hand out money, but which assists low income people with saving and meeting their housing needs. One of this organization’s programs is called CASH – not small, unmarked bills, but an acronym for a program named Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope. It’s one example of the creative work done by this organization serving rural Kansas.
John Scott is president and CEO of Interfaith Housing Services, which developed several innovative programs including this project called CASH. John grew up over in Zaire where his parents were missionaries. He met his future wife in Hutchinson, Kan. where he had family. They went into the mission field themselves in Africa before returning to Hutchinson.
“The same needs I had seen overseas, I saw in my own neighborhood,” John said. He saw people with houses in disrepair and others needing better homes.
The city of Hutchinson created a task force on housing needs and affordability. In 1989, a housing summit was held in Hutchinson to talk about how to assist low-income families and individuals meet their housing needs. From that meeting, a core group of volunteers from various churches developed Interfaith Housing Services or IHS. In 1991, IHS was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. John Scott became the first director.
“They hired me as a part-time director if we could raise any money,” John said. He went to work, with a committed core of volunteers.
IHS set out to provide homeowner-occupied housing repair and rehabilitation for low-income homeowners in Reno County. Since then, IHS has assisted more than 900 households make much-needed repairs to their homes.
In 1992, IHS received its first grant for developing a special needs rental program. Since then, IHS has developed 120 units in Reno, Harper, and Ford counties.
In 1993, IHS began an initiative called First Homeownership Opportunity Program or 1HOP. This program provides customized financial counseling and matched savings for each household. IHS has successfully assisted over 50 individuals or families with the purchase of their first home.
In 2003, IHS partnered with the Hutchinson Correctional Facility and the Southeast Kansas Educational Service Center to build homes for these programs. IHS provided all materials. Houses were built on the correctional facility grounds by inmates in the vocational training program and then moved to vacant lots in the community. This innovative program helped provide affordable housing while assisting inmates in obtaining marketable skills for a new life. Eleven houses were built before the program closed due to funding cuts at the correctional facility.
IHS also provides weatherization services for homes in 25 counties in southwest Kansas. Income-eligible households receive a comprehensive home assessment which includes repair or replacement of heating systems, insulation and caulking at no cost to the client.
In 2008, IHS established an Individual Development Account Program (or IDA) designed to help low- to moderate-income individuals break the bonds of poverty by saving for a major asset purchase, such as first time homeownership, homeowner occupied housing repair, post secondary education, specialized skills training, or small business capitalization. This program - now called CASH - Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope – is designed to transition low and moderate income families off of government and social services and into self-sufficiency and financial stability. Every dollar a client saves toward a future goal is matched with two dollars.
“The program provides the education and encouragement to permanently change their future,” John said. It is funded through private 75 percent State of Kansas Tax Credit donations.
Interfaith Housing Services has grown to 21 employees with offices in Hutchinson, Dodge City, and the rural community of Anthony, population 2,361 people. Now, that’s rural.
“We feel we’re impacting not just individuals but a whole generation,” John said. For more information, go to Interfaith Housing Services.
Would you like some CASH? Not folding money, but a program to help the disadvantaged build their savings for the future. We commend John Scott and all those involved with Interfaith Housing Services for making a difference by assisting those less fortunate. As the IHS motto says, they are “Helping Hands, Helping People.”
The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Unit. A photo of Ron Wilson is available. Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are also available. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development.