The Westside community of Atlanta ranks among the top five most underbanked communities in the nation. In addition to a lack of easily accessible and safe financial services and products, there's also an absence of resources for essential counseling and education.
Generating wealth requires the ability not only to access financial resources and credit, but also the ability to understand and manage these resources. That’s why, in 2017, Equifax joined with Inclusiv to open the On the Rise Financial Center.
The Center addresses both issues of access and education by providing affordable banking, alternatives to payday loans, affordable home mortgages, and a suite of financial services that empower the community’s residents to achieve their financial goals. Since its inception, the Center has seen hundreds of local residents attend financial education courses, and for those who stayed with the program for more than six months, 64% saw an increase in their credit scores and 58% reduced their overall consumer debt.
Dennis Darnes, a Marine Veteran who was intermittently homeless on the streets of Atlanta for 20 years, said “I didn’t know much about finances, emergency funds, savings … I didn’t think as a homeless veteran that I could own a home.”
Things changed for Dennis when he visited the On The Rise Center. “They gave me everything I needed,” said Darnes. “The process of doing a budget, keeping my credit score up, and saving funds.”
The Center, through their partnership network, enabled Dennis to become a homeowner.
For David Stiffler, President of the Equifax Foundation, the On the Rise Financial Center was a perfect fit for the needs of the community.
“After a thorough review of how best Equifax could play a role in the revitalization of the Westside, we arrived at the concept of the On The Rise Financial Center,” said Stiffler.
“We wanted to bring our full value chain to bear and our unique position as a credit bureau to offer residents a safe place to improve their financial standing and financial future."
The Center’s approach has evolved and matured in the three years since its inception, growing through new partnerships with like-minded community organizations such as the Westside Future Fund, Arthur M Blank Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and Quest Community Development Organization.
Now more than ever, the On The Rise Financial Center is needed. The COVID-19 crisis has had an oversized and overwhelming impact on already vulnerable communities. The Center has responded by providing virtual sessions and tailored coaching to help residents navigate this crisis.
Through investments like the On The Rise Financial Center, Equifax is committed to driving financial capability in local communities and making a positive impact that will resonate for generations to come.