Friday, March 24, 2023
his Women’s History Month, Capital One is celebrating nonprofit executive leaders that are empowering vulnerable women in the community to overcome hardships. At Dallas-based WiNGs, CEO Kate Rose Marquez helps women achieve financial security and alleviate generational poverty. At Shreveport-based Providence House, Executive Director Verni Howard ensures safe shelter and educational support for homeless families and children.
Below are the ways both organizations make an impact with support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, a commitment to support growth in underserved communities and advance socioeconomic mobility by closing gaps in equity and opportunity.
Women make up half of Texas residents, but they “continue to face challenges when it comes to key indicators of economic security” according to 2020 research by the Texas Women’s Foundation. Updated every three years, the study found that more than 2.3 million women in Texas earned less than the poverty threshold of $35,000 per year. Formerly the YWCA of Dallas, WiNGS empowers such women by addressing root causes of poverty.
“Over the decade, we’ve seen that our clients face a venn diagram of barriers such as a lack of access to careers, education, and general support. But when we raise up the woman, we raise up the family and community,” says Marquez. “We meet women where they are at a point of change in their lives, whether it’s as they become new mothers, take on new careers, or want to set a financial foundation for themselves.”
WiNGS is using funding from Capital One to expand its Financial Resiliency Program, providing students with a skills-based education and one-on-one financial coaching to help them achieve financial independence. Students who go through the Financial Resiliency Program see an average credit score increase of 40 points, an average savings increase of $3,000, and an average decrease in debt of $9,000. These numbers are significant and open up opportunities for women and their families to plan their financial futures in ways they otherwise could not.
“Many people aren’t taught about finances from an early age while other people learn through traditional, abstract means. But when we talk about dreams and goals, that’s when our female clients can see how they want to change the trajectory of their lives,” says Marquez. “When we talk about the dream of starting their own businesses, for example, our class participants are more likely to experience long-term success. Our data shows that women who go through the WiNGs programs increase their savings, increase credit scores and decrease debts.”
Marquez says that the results aren’t immediate, but what WiNGS employees have seen over the long term is that women in the program learn that they have the power to realize their own dreams so they work hard to ensure every step they take goes towards that dream.
“WiNGS is not the protagonist of these women’s stories — these women are,” emphasized Marquez. “These women signed up and showed up to these classes because they wanted resources that make sense for their family. We’re just here to build the scaffold around them and hold them up.”
Imagine the festive decorations that one associates with celebrations — streamers, balloons, gifts, and cake — and that’s what the Shreveport-based Providence House looks like during children’s birthdays. This is just one way that staffers provide a sense of normalcy for those experiencing homelessness. Beyond creating happy memories, the Providence House team — which consists of case managers, a licensed clinical counselor, dietary team, teaching staff and administrators— are working to provide comprehensive supportive services to equip families with financial literacy skills, parenting and life skills, employment preparation and a workforce development program.
Providence House serves to move the whole family from homelessness towards their highest level of self-sufficiency. Those programs include: on site intensive case management; a 4 star child development center; a full service workforce development program; and an extension of a local college campus, Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC). Providence House also helps to address barriers that prevent adults from gaining the independence they either never had or lost.
“We see the trauma that schools and parents don’t see, so what we do is help shape a sense of purpose and normalcy for children,” says Howard. “We do more than just provide clothing, food, and shelter — we think about the long-term journey of these individuals, and what they need to achieve independence.”
“If we can get the tripod strong through education, housing, and workforce development, then we can build self-sufficiency, happiness and the ability for people to hold up a mirror and see themselves beyond the lens of homelessness,” says Howard. “We’re here to remove barriers. For example, we provide a 4-STAR child development center so that we can take care of children while parents attend job skills training classes. We have an on-site college extension through BPCC to alleviate the transportation issue for people without cars. Our workforce development program provides job search and application assistance, resume building and mock interview training and coaching. We also have onsite counseling for our residents to deal with other various stressors. Counseling is a key component of our program, helping our residents work through issues that contributed to their homelessness.”
With funding from Capital One, Providence House is bolstering its ability to support a sense of normalcy for homeless women and children. That means providing money for women with new careers to buy uniforms, shoes and transportation. It also means providing the funds for children with extracurricular activities to purchase uniforms, pay for fees, and equipment so that they have that “Field Day t-shirt” to wear, along with athletic shoes to run and play. The funding also allows children to have birthday parties, gifts, and pizza night as a treat so that they aren’t “relegated to only donated meals,” as Howard explains.
“We know that our women, children, and families want the exact same thing that anyone else wants, which is to feel valued, seen, and heard,” says Howard.