Connect Program Launched in Chelsea

Congressman Michael Capua¬no gives the keynote address at the launching of the Connect Program.

The Federal Reserve Bank in Boston and a Boston legal firm were at the nexus last Thursday of a groundbreaking human services collaboration in Chelsea that could set the standard for the rest of the country.

Six Chelsea non-profits launched the new CONNECT program at the two events and explained that it is designed to bring together a range of financial education, savings and employment programs into one, single location.

That location would be a renovated space in the existing Chelsea Neighborhood Developers (CND) building on Gerrish Avenue and Broadway.

The kick-off attracted attention from a good range of public and private-sector officials, including Congressman Michael Capuano, City Manager Jay Ash, and state Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Joanne Goldstein.

Capuano gave the keynote address at the kick-off and praised the new model.

“I’m here tonight because CONNECT is exactly the right model” for supporting residents, he said.

Goldstein indicated that CONNECT is an innovative approach that should be used as a roadmap for everyone to follow.

During the events, Chelsea residents shared their stories about how similar programs at CND have helped them get on their feet.

Chelsea resident Rene Brimage told the crowd that she recently went through a tough financial stretch after losing her job.

After finding an affordable place to live in Chelsea, she said that she turned to the CND workshops on financial education and began a process of financial, one-on-one coaching.

Through that process, she learned to develop a budget and opened a savings account so she could begin to put money back.

Her next big step, she told the crowd, is to head back to college.

“As a person begins to transition in their life, there will be other programs there- for each step of their life that they’ve accomplished,” said said, praising the CONNECT model.

The six partners seek to leverage existing resources to support transformative economic mobility for low-income families. CONNECT provides traditional workforce development and employment support from CareerSource, Centro Latino and Bunker Hill Community College in coordination with asset development and housing services from Chelsea Neighborhood Developers, Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership and Metro Credit Union.

“Residents face a wide variety of challenges including a highly competitive job market, isolated adult education and inadequate job training services,” said Ann Houston, Executive Director of Chelsea Neighborhood Developers. “These challenges are compounded for recent immigrants who may be completely unfamiliar with US banking systems. CONNECT will build on each partner’s deep experience and make it easier for families to access a network of services to achieve financial goals.”

CONNECT’s “bundled” model of services is based on proven models for client success. The earliest supporters of the project include local and national funders who have developed a body of knowledge on what it takes for low-income households to overcome economic obstacles. Early analysis of these programs show that residents receiving a “bundle” of services in combination achieve significant outcomes three to four times more often than their peers. The earliest CONNECT funders include BNY Mellon, Boston LISC, Catalyst Fund for Non-Profits, Citi Foundation, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, National Credit Union Foundation, NeighborWorks America and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

A core component of CONNECT’s model is creating a place where peers can gather to talk and help each other reach their financial goals. Phal Pav, a five year participant in Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnerships programs said, “When you’re surrounded by people who want to go for the goal, it gives the opportunity for the other person to say, ‘if they can do it, I can do it too.’ Now let’s do it!”

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