Spring 2010


Spring 2010

RCIF Loan Will Lower Project Costs for Housing Targeted to Low-Income Homeowners

The Religious Communities Investment Fund (RCIF) has made a strong commitment to housing issues, and one of the newest loans, $100,000 to Portland, Oregon-based Proud Ground illustrates why. The low-interest loan replaces an earlier, conventional high-interest acquisition loan on the Svaboda Court development project. Located in the Lents Urban Renewal Area of Portland, Svaboda Court will be 8-12 duplex style, family-friendly townhomes that, priced between $130,000 and $155,000, will be affordable for an underserved segment of homebuyers. (In 2009, the median sales price for a market-rate home in Portland was a whopping $247,000!)

Like another Proud Ground project just across the street, Pardee Commons, Svaboda Court will be accessible to first-time, low-income homebuyers. The median household income of Proud Ground homeowners is $31,973. Proud Ground, explained executive director Jesse Beason, has a 0% foreclosure rate among its homeowners, because a core feature of the organization is post-purchase support for buyers. “We work like crazy with folks before and after the sale,” deputy director Kathy Armstrong told The Oregonian newspaper recently. “We’re known for our post-sale support.” Offering programs that help new homeowners maintain their homes and sharpen their financial management skills, Proud Ground also ensures that the homes will remain affordable for future generations, either through a land lease or an affordability covenant with the homebuyer. Since 1999, Proud Ground has created 118 new homeowners.

Tracie Cole with city officials and development partners at Pardee Commons ribbon cutting.

Tracie Cole with city officials and development partners at Pardee Commons ribbon cutting.

One of them, Tracie Cole (pictured at right, second from left) is the type of homeowner who will  be moving into Svaboda Court when those units are completed.  Proud Ground gave Tracie the chance to own her own home, after years of frustration with the rental apartments she could afford for her family. “I feel such joy,” Tracie exclaims, “I can’t believe this is really mine.”   Thrilled with finally becoming her “own landlord,” she says, “Besides being a single mother and a grandmother, there’s not a better feeling than becoming a homeowner.”

For more information on Proud Ground, visit www.proudground.org

Borrower Mission Neighborhood Centers Celebrates 50th Anniversary, While Support from RCIF Provides Access to Operating Capital

RCIF’s new $200,000 loan to Mission Neighborhood Centers  (MNC) is sort of like the lifeboat on a ship. Parked on the decks, it’s preferably unused – but it sure comes in handy when you need it.

“Awaiting reimbursement is probably the most stressful part of administering a non-profit,” says MNC executive director Santiago “Sam” Ruiz. That kind of stress “stifles the organization, it keeps us from being creative or from providing access to  immigrants and other populations.”  For an organization that for 50 years has survived and served the neediest in one of San Francisco’s toughest neighborhoods, that kind of stress is unacceptable.  Today MNC’s services include 9 Head Start locations that enroll 360 children and their families, six youth/family centers that reach 1,200 youths between 16 and 24 each year with comprehensive programming, and two senior centers that serve more than 700 bilingual, low-income seniors each year.

Nancy Pelosi during her speech, in the back ED Sam Ruiz, gala chair Tiffany Rasmussen and Board chair Jim Salinas, Sr. (Photo by Katia Fuentes, MNC)

Nancy Pelosi during her speech, in the back ED Sam Ruiz, gala chair Tiffany Rasmussen and Board chair Jim Salinas, Sr. (Photo by Katia Fuentes, MNC)


As MNC celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a gala on April 23, the support of the community for this organization was evident – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke glowingly of MNC’s mission, and supporters included major corporations, foundations and a cross-section of people from the Bay Area.

Yet, as for every non-profit, the day-to-day challenges never recede.  RCIF’s loan allows access to working capital, says Ruiz, helping to solve “the perennial problem organizations like Mission face.”  Grants and contracts never come with money up front, he explains. “When grants come in there is a time lag between establishing the program and receipt of reimbursement.”  So, for instance, MNC’s innovative program with the California Department of Education –the first in California, blending Federal Head Start dollars with CDOE money to provide full-day child care for 198 needy children – cannot survive without available cash.  “CDOE only reimburses quarterly,” says Ruiz.  But because the loan can be used like a line of credit and dollars replenished when reimbursement arrives, “we know we can meet payroll,” he explains.  At a 3 percent interest rate, one which Ruiz says makes MNC’s partners’ “jaws drop,” the loan represents an enormous level of support from the religious communities in RCIF for crucial programs that span the generations.

For more information on Mission Neighborhood Centers, visit www.mncsf.org


MNC Staffer Fulfills Legacy of Persistence In Her Work with Families, Youth

When she was 11 years old, a man akin to a guardian angel walked into Ginale Harris’s life. It took another 11 years before she could fully accept his guidance. But Ray Balberan, now retired but then a caseworker with Mission Neighborhood Centers (MNC), is nothing if not tenacious.

“I was hopeless back then,” said Ginale, “I figured by the time I was 20 I’d be dead or in prison.”  Floundering in the Bernal Dwellings, a housing project in the Mission District of San Francisco, with an addicted father and a mother burdened with mental health issues, Ginale’s family and school problems brought her into Ray’s orbit at MNC. It was Ray who got her enrolled into the Real Alternative School, and Ray who stuck with her through any missteps over the next decade.

“One thing with Ray, when you meet him, he has the most wonderful energy,” said Ginale.  “He is persistent.  I had a lot of trust issues. At first I thought, why does this man care about me?  I’d be disrespectful, call him names, cuss him out, but he always came back.”

Over the next decade, Ginale finished high school, but veered in and out of the gang life that dominates the housing projects. Still Ray wouldn’t give up, on her or the other kids he was working with. “One time,” she recalled, “I had nowhere to sleep, so we sat in a coffee shop all night. That was when I started to trust him.   He is the one who planted the seed that I could do better.”

Finally, 20 years’ worth of violence and pain were enough for Ginale, and Ray was ready with the safety net he’d been saving. “I said, ‘I don’t want this life anymore,’” she said. “Ray told me there was a job at Precita Center.” She went to work for Mission Neighborhood Centers. “I’d never had a job in my life.  I was hired, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Ginale Harris at her desk. Photo courtesy missionlocal.org

Ginale Harris at her desk. Photo courtesy missionlocal.org

Sam Ruiz, MNC’s executive director who has been with the organization for 29 years, was her boss.  He told her if she wanted to keep the job she’d have to go back to school. “I told him I wasn’t smart enough. But he insisted. And I found out that I was great at it. I ended up becoming a 3.8 student at City College of San Francisco. I got my associate’s degree and my drug and alcohol certification.  I’m pursuing my bachelor’s.”

Now, full circle, Ginale  runs Mission Neighborhood Center‘s Family Resource Center at Bernal Dwellings, where she grew up. “They tore down the old buildings and built townhouses, but the problems are still the same,” said Ginale. “Except now it’s worse. The kids are not just (fist) fighting in the street, they want to shoot each other.”

Her official title is Intervention Service Director, but most of the kids call her “Auntie.” On a shoestring budget, she and Luana McAlpine do something to help 240 families each month. Every week there’s a food pantry. Kids, teens and adults drop in for advice and activities. Ginale advocates for special needs kids at the school district and helps families grapple with everything from housing to legal issues. Young people in the complex have a safe place to hang out. Parents find support and advice.

Ginale and residents at Bernal Christmas event.

Ginale and residents at Bernal Christmas event.

“I’m trying to teach parents how to bond with their children.  One man, after two stints in prison, is learning how to be a father,” she says. “He can’t read or write and he is 42 years old.”

Somehow the money even gets raised each year for a community trip to Disneyland, a feat Ginale and Luana attribute to the power of prayer.  Since the center opened two years ago, four people have passed their GEDs. And although the sound of gunshots might interrupt a conversation at any hour “This is my reality,” said Ginale, as she paused during a cell phone call from her parked car to figure out where the noise came from — there have been no killings at Bernal since the Family Resource Center opened.

Ginale continues to stretch her plans for her own life. She sees herself attending law school and practicing public service law.  She persists. “When you get a staff that really cares about the community that’s what makes the difference,” she says.  After all, thirty years ago, Ray Balberan never gave up. “He saw hopelessness,“  Ginale said with a catch in her voice, “and he refused to let the torch go out in my eyes.  ‘Not on his watch,’ he’d say. Now, that’s what I say.”

Mission Neighborhood Centers in San Francisco just celebrated its 50th Anniversary. It has become a backbone institution for San Francisco’s vulnerable children, families and seniors by providing a continuum of programs that support an individual’s life span. Through high quality early childhood and youth development programs as well as senior services, MNC reaches across generations providing culturally appropriate services that improve the quality of life of thousands of families city-wide. (MNC website: www.mncsf.org) The Religious Communities Investment Fund has a loan to MNC that allows the organization to have access to working capital.

RCIF Has Strong Commitment to Housing, Up and Down West Coast and Southwest

Supporting organizations that provide access to affordable housing is one of the core values of the Religious Communities Investment Fund.  These organizations approach and solve the problem in myriad ways.  Here is how the housing-related organizations currently on RCIF’s borrower roster make a difference:

Part of a network of over 250 YouthBuild programs nationwide, Portland YouthBuilders supports low-income young men and women who are committed to changing their lives to become self-sufficient, contributing members of the workforce and their community. Each year, they provide education, vocational training, and leadership development services for over 200 young people between the ages of 17 and 24 who have not completed high school and who face significant barriers to success. Students attend PYB every weekday, alternating between academic studies and vocational training in either their green construction or computer technology program.  All students receive career development skills, leadership development opportunities, and long term support.

To meet the overwhelming need for affordable housing, Mercy Loan Fund, a subsidiary of Mercy Housing, was created in 1985 to provide financing to hundreds of local nonprofit organizations, enabling them to develop affordable housing in their communities. They have helped finance the development of single and multi-family homes for rental and homeownership opportunities.  Mercy Housing California is one of their largest business centers. With offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and West Sacramento, Mercy Housing California offers affordable low-income housing programs to more than 23,000 people at more than 100 properties. Residents include families, people with special needs and seniors who struggle daily with the high cost of living. The average household income is more than $48,400 – nearly $5,000 more than the national average. The average annual income of a Mercy Housing California resident is $19,525.

“Housing For All” is their motto, and the San Luis Obispo County Housing Trust Fund is a private nonprofit corporation that was created to increase the supply of affordable housing in San Luis Obispo County for very low, low and moderate income households, including households with special needs.  Rather than build or operate housing directly, the HTF provides financing and technical assistance to help private developers, nonprofit corporations and government agencies produce and preserve homes that working families, seniors on fixed incomes and persons with disabilities can afford to rent or buy.

Homewise, a private non-profit organization, was founded in 1986 as Neighborhood Housing Services of Santa Fe, New Mexico. During its first six years, NHS-Santa Fe was a small nonprofit engaged in home improvement and rehabilitation of the city’s poorer west side. In 1992, Mike Loftin became Executive Director and as he canvassed the organization’s existing clients, he discovered the homeowners were complaining that their grown children could not afford to buy a home in Santa Fe. Over the next decade, Loftin and the staff of NHS-Santa Fe, now called Homewise, grew into a full-service agency promoting affordable homeownership through financial counseling and educational classes designed to help Santa Fe’s moderate income residents become home owners. Today, Homewise is a CDFI which helps low and moderate income people buy, refinance and improve their own homes.