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Referral Partner Spotlight: Model Cities

Blake MacKenzie
Posted by Blake MacKenzie on 9:55 AM on March 31, 2017

“It’s not if you can buy a home, but when.”Linda White at a Habitat dedication

That’s what Linda White, Homeownership Advisor at Model Cities, tells the families she’s preparing for homeownership through one-on-one financial coaching. With her background in banking and extensive knowledge of the homeownership process, Linda will meet with clients as many times as they need to work with them on their dream of homeownership.

“I take something as important as purchasing a home very seriously,” Linda added.

This is why Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is grateful for our partnership with Model Cities, one of several Habitat referral partnerships throughout the Twin Cities. Families can rest assured that they’ll be in good hands if they opt to work with Linda at Model Cities in preparation to buy their Habitat home.

Kizzy Downie, Director of Community Services at Model Cities, shared a bit about the history and role of Model Cities in the community.  In June 1967, the City of Saint Paul, in collaboration with U. S. Public Health Services, initiated the Community Health Demonstration Program. This program became the blueprint for what is now Model Cities. A resident task force group called the Ramsey County Citizens Community for Economic Opportunity (R.C.C.C.E.O.) met to determine how to best meet the health needs of individuals and families living in some of St. Paul’s core communities, and to develop a concept for a free neighborhood clinic, open during convenient hours, and staffed with volunteers from within the community. From this concept, Model Cities began to provide primary healthcare to those without access in the Summit-University neighborhoods of St. Paul. But over the years, as funding sources and community needs changed, Model Cities adapted, adding other human services and community development.

Today, the healthcare services are now provided by Open Cities Health Center, which has split from Model Cities. That leaves Model Cities free to focus on other critical community needs, such as coaching and mentorship services with youth on probation, crisis intervention, housing and case management with people who are formerly homeless, and many supportive housing and affordable housing programs.

This year Model Cities is celebrating its 50th Anniversary of providing excellent services in the community. In the fall of 2017, they’ll be opening a new four-story brownstone building in St. Paul that will feature about 35 affordable housing units (almost doubling their affordable housing options), ground floor commercial space, offices for Model Cities, and a special tribute to the Rondo neighborhood and the history of African Americans and transit.

Model Cities also regularly conducts HomeStretch workshops, which prepare first-time homebuyers for homeownership and are taught by Sherrie Strickland. And they’ll also provide the same type of one-on-one financial coaching that Twin Cities Habitat coaches provide. That’s where Linda comes in. Clients referred from Twin Cities Habitat for coaching will work with her.

Linda White laughing at a Habitat home dedication.“Potential homebuyers should show up with the expectation that there’s not judgment here,” Linda said. That nonjudgmental approach is the foundation for a successful coaching relationship. “Just come in with an open mind, willing to work on anything it takes. It’s not about good vs. bad, just about what you need to know to get there.”

“We look at the credit scores first,” Linda said. This is often the scariest part of the process for homebuyers, and is often a barrier that needs to be overcome on the path to homeownership.

“I ensure them that, with work, their credit scores won’t go anywhere but up,” Linda was quick to add. “They’ll get credit info reiterating time and time again, and seeing the movement of a credit score is the most fantastic thing for the client.”

Linda’s ultimate goal is to ensure that her clients come out of the process ready to purchase a home—whether that’s with Twin Cities Habitat or on the open market. And she recently had the opportunity to attend the Habitat home dedication of the first family she worked with who was referred by Habitat for financial coaching.

“I owe Habitat a huge thank you for the referrals and the trust-building between our organizations,” Linda said. The families who have been referred to her are ready and knowledgeable, and it helps to have referrals from a trusted partner.

“Our partnership between Model Cities and Twin Cities Habitat allows us to leverage both organization’s skillsets and resources to help that person become successful in homeownership.”

That successful partnership was beautifully captured as Linda, alongside Twin Cities Habitat staff, volunteers, and supporters, smiled and laughed and cheered on the family they all worked with at the family’s dedication.

Linda with Twin Cities Habitat CEO Sue Haigh, and Twin Cities Habitat staff Linda Griffin.

Because of Linda’s credit expertise, we asked her for a tip for improving a credit score. Here’s what she said:

  • Never have more than 30% of your credit limit on a credit card outstanding at any time.
  • Make those minimum payments on-time—it matters!

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Tags: Partner Spotlight, 2017

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