The median household income in Vine City in 2018 was about $30,000 — half the citywide median, according to U.S. Census data compiled by the Atlanta Regional Commission. And almost 40% of residents in English Avenue live in poverty, nearly double the citywide poverty rate.
Stiffler said a lack of traditional banking resources in those areas can lead to economic instability for many residents, which then leads banks to not locate there. Some poorer residents become forced into a debt cycle to pay off basic necessities, which may include taking out payday loans with high interest rates.
The On The Rise center assists residents with one-on-one financial coaching, including preparation for buying a home or starting a new business. It also gives people access to local credit union products including banking services. The center is supported financially though Equifax, as well as Invest Atlanta and the Arthur M. Blank Foundation.
Since it was started three years ago, it has helped about 2,000 Westside residents, Equifax said. This year, nearly half of the people that sought help at the center decreased their total debt.
The services go further than general financial education, Stiffler said.
“The industry misconception is, ‘Hey, if we give individuals education... Bam! We’ve solved the problem.’ That’s not true,” he said. Everyone’s financial situation is different, so broad guidance that works for one person might not work for another, he said. “The reality is, much of the financial education that our country has produced is ineffective.”
The center is set to anchor a large new community hub in Vine City built by Quest Communities, called the Quest Westside Impact Center. The 30,000-square-foot facility will also include other social services like housing and workforce development.
“COVID’s going to leave behind amazing wreckage economically speaking, so the building of credit, and Equifax’s role in that through this center, has never been more important,” Stiffler said.