Spring-Summer 2005

"Bringing IT Home" with the Cleveland Housing Network

Established in 1981, the mission of the Cleveland Housing Network is to generate hope, healthy market forces, and powerful pathways out of poverty for very low-income families, which is accomplished through the large-scale development of superior quality affordable housing, meaningful homeownership opportunities, and a critical array of comprehensive training and supportive services. This “beyond bricks and mortar” approach to community development includes CHN's Bringing IT Home Initiative. Bringing IT Home (BIH) trains low-income Clevelanders to become proficient in computer technology and financial literacy and provides graduates with an opportunity to purchase a subsidized home computer and build on their experience at the home.

Based on the framework of the 21st Century Workforce Commission's emphasis on applied information technology proficiency and training, and with the help of a second Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) grant from the Department of Commerce in 2002, CHN established the BIH to provide training in hardware, Microsoft Office, Email, and the Internet. BIH clients also take a series of financial literacy courses that emphasize basic money management, understanding and improving credit, and savings and investments. After classroom training, clients are eligible to purchase a new subsidized desktop PC with CHN paying half. To date, 150 more homes now have a new computers being used by more than 500 Clevelanders.

Not only do the tools acquired through BIH enhance employability, they also link clients to mainstream banking services that make it easier to manage personal finances. The combination of technology and financial literacy training helps clients integrate the use of ATMs, checking accounts, and online banking services including direct payroll deposit, bill payment, and e-filing taxes. The curriculum also teaches users to review credit reports, fill our loan applications (e.g., FAFSA), and use a spreadsheet to budget.

As a part of the project's rigorous data collection and program evaluation, CHN developed “ClassMate,” an on-line tool to manage CTC activities and track outcomes, used daily by staff at CHN's Community Training and Technology Center to track their 5,000 plus clients who take classes and utilize its services. CHN continually makes revisions to the BIH model, modifies curriculum, and creates new course work in accordance with the outcomes measured. CHN most recently launched a “Get Checking” class, which is a first step in helping people get out of “ChexSystems” – which means they cannot open a bank account. In response to the enthusiasm of students who completed the BIH program wanted more, CHN partnered with Cuyahoga Community College to create its premier “Gateway” program. Picking up where Level II computer training leaves off, the Gateway program allows BIH students to take Level III – an actual for-credit college course - taught by college instructors, at the Training Center where they are comfortable.

Unfortunately, the elimination of TOP from the 2005 federal budget removes an important funding stream for the BIH program. Despite the loss of this program, TOP enabled CHN to develop a blue print that can be used to develop new partners and new funding streams for this important initiative. Currently, CHN is collaborating with an exciting array of community partners to develop a city wide “Beyond Bricks and Mortar” plan that will build on the BIH momentum to develop self-confident, money smart, and technologically trained homeowners who help stabilize Cleveland's community.

perrymondimage1small.doc.jpg DeJuan Perrymond is the Director of Information Technology at Cleveland Housing Network, Inc. where he manages a staff of six and is responsible for the department's strategic planning, program and human resource development, community relations, program evaluation management and project budgeting. An accomplished and resourceful web application designer and software developer, Dejuan has taken the lead role on two Department of Commerce Technology Opportunity Program grants.


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