For many of Dallas’ homeless, significant financial aid and loans are simply not an option, but one Dallas shelter hopes to alter that reality. Austin Street Centre has established a program that will offer loans to the homeless residents of the shelter who apply and are approved.
This program, appropriately called Banking on People, works in conjunction with Benchmark Bank of Dallas and Plano and will implement a micro-lending strategy, offering monetary loans of various sizes to those who qualify through the process of due diligence.
Once applicants have completed this process and are approved for the loan, they will have the ability to build a business from the ground up, something many would never think to hope for.
Austin Street Centre bases the principal of the program on the forward-thinking of Muhammad Yunus, who in 1983 established the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Yunus, often called the "banker to the poor," gave loans to the less fortunate and offered them the ability to repay on their own terms.
Much like the Grameen Bank, Banking on People gives shelter residents a foundation of trust and hope. The first of its kind in the nation, Banking on People is what Keith Price, the shelter’s director, says is an opportunity to “help them rise above their homelessness.”
“By the time they get to us, they’re almost to the bottom,” said Price, who is also the developer behind Banking on People. “It’s our job to lift them up.”
Hope is the overall theme associated with this program, but for one shelter resident, there is much more to it.
Austin Street Centre client, Loreen Aubrey-Kirk, 57, will be the first recipient of this loan, which will allow her to start her own massage therapy business. Aubrey-Kirk, who has been in the shelter for nearly a year, is appreciative for this unexpected support.
“I’m so happy that my opportunity has come,” said Aubrey-Kirk.
Aubrey-Kirk studied massage therapy, and graduated in November 2011 from ATI, a Dallas career training center. During her training, she learned to develop a business model, including an operational startup budget, which she estimates could be near $1,100. This detailed plan, which she showed to Price on a whim, was the impetus to Price establishing the lending program.
“Mr. Price was impressed with my portfolio,” said Aubrey-Kirk. “I was shocked to have someone back me.”
The road ahead looks promising for Aubrey-Kirk. The amount that she will receive from the bank is ultimately based on the specifications of her business plan.
Working to build a business is a slow process, but one that gives Austin Street Center clients a future sources of income, as well as a reason to keep pressing onward.