Bartko Foundation Honors Open Hand Ministries Home-Owner

Akirah RobinsonFamily Care0 Comments

The Bartko Foundation is a Pittsburgh-based non-profit whose mission is to invest in the self-sufficiency projects of single, minority mothers. In the past, a handful of Open Hand families meeting these requirements have applied for funds through the Bartko Foundation to support the purchase of their homes.

Each year, the Bartko Foundation hosts a luncheon called Irene’s Dream. At this luncheon, one Bartko grantee is honored with the Irene O. Bartko Award. A few months ago, we nominated our newest homeowner for this award. While she did not receive the award, the Bartko Foundation invited us to attend the luncheon, as they wanted to honor her many achievements anyway.

(Can you blame them? Our home-owners are awesome!)

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We had a FABULOUS time at the Irene’s Dream Luncheon and feel grateful to share a vision with such a wonderful partner. We owe a big “THANK YOU!” to the Bartko Foundation — for supporting our work and more importantly, for supporting the hard work of our families!

To learn more about the Bartko Foundation, check out their website here.

A Part of the Circle: Another Update on Family Care

Akirah RobinsonFamily Care0 Comments

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Open Hand Ministries has recently adopted the Circles model to take its family care to the next level. What is Circles, you may ask? Circles is nationally recognized anti-poverty program that works to match neighborhood families wanting to to increase their income and assets (Leaders) with trained middle/upper income mentors (Allies).

Long before we heard about Circles, Open Hand was utilizing a similar approach with our families. Two years ago, we hired Akirah Robinson as our Family Care Coordinator to better oversee our families and their volunteers. When we learned about Circles and realized its similarities with our manner of care, we began to discern its fit with our ministry. After months of research and training, we eagerly agreed to help facilitate a Circles group in East Liberty by partnering with East Liberty Development Inc., East End Cooperative Ministry, and Repair the World.

By our powers combined, we are Circles East Liberty!

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From September to December, fourteen families (a large majority being Open Hand families) met weekly at East End Cooperative Ministry and were trained on goal-setting, budgeting, and networking. On December 16th, eleven of these families “graduated” from this leadership development training and will be moving on to the next phase of the program as Circle Leaders.

In January, each of our Circle Leaders will be matched with at least two Circle Allies to help them work their plans and reach their goals. For eighteen months, gatherings will occur about twice a month for Leaders and Allies to connect. During these meetings, dinner will be served and childcare will be provided so Leaders and Allies can work together, uninterrupted.

The structure, tools, and training protocols of the Circles model will enable OHM to create a much larger pool of prepared homeowners and a much stronger network of support. Interested in helping out? We are always in need of dinner donations and childcare volunteers. Email circles@eastliberty.org for more information…or leave a comment below!

Let Us Tell You About Our New (And Exciting!) Transitional Rental Program

Akirah RobinsonFamily Care0 Comments

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In the six years we have served our community, we have realized that absentee and slum landlord situations are a major obstacle to our community members as they endeavor to break the cycle of oppression. Many of the families we work with are in slum landlord situations—placing them in unstable, stressful, and costly living environments. We have found that these environments represent a significant obstacle for our families, frequently making the already demanding endeavor of credit repair, budgeting, and financial management virtually impossible.

Our Transitional Rental Program is a ministry we are developing in response to this obstacle. Transitional Rental units will be ones that we can offer vetted “in-process families” and will provide, in order of importance:

1. Affordable monthly rent – Monthly rent payments will stay 30% below our community’s market rate.

2. Stability – OHM acting as landlords will be an extension of our family care process and, as such, defined by dignity, mutuality, and respect.

3. Required savings program – A portion of each monthly rent payment will be set aside in an escrow account to be applied at the successful completion of a mutually agreed upon end goal – i.e. purchase of home.

4. Ongoing source of ministry revenue – The rent payments made by families will allow us to reinvest in property upkeep and ministry sustainability.

Providing these four benefits will eliminate significant obstacles for our families as they work with us to repair their credit, develop their financial management skills, purchase their first home, and become wealth-builders in our communities.

Currently we are working with East Liberty Development, Inc. and rehabilitating a home that one of our families will move into next month. Additionally, we are having preliminary talks about purchasing a duplex that would enable us to house two families. We are excited about these opportunities and strengthening the care we provide the families with whom we are in relationship.

Are you interested in getting involved? Check out our Support page for more information.

One Poverty Simulation Down, One More To Go!

Akirah RobinsonFamily Care0 Comments

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Last month, Open Hand Ministries had the honor of co-sponsoring a poverty to kick off our recent launch of Circles East Liberty. Thanks to the hard work of our co-sponsors and the facilitators at Just Harvest, we are happy to say the event was a huge success! Almost 80 folks showed up to learn more about poverty and the struggles people living in poverty face on a daily basis.

If you couldn’t make our first poverty simulation, have no fear! We will be co-sponsoring another poverty simulation on November 24th at East Liberty Presbyterian Church at 6PM. If you are interested in attending, you can register by filling out this online form.

Pov Sim Nov 2014

Hope to see you soon!

P.S. Diana Nelson Jones of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also joined us for the event and wrote a very nice article about it. You can read her synopsis here.