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Short Title

Can People Experiencing Homelessness Acquire Financial Assets?

Abstract

Through an innovative Individual Development Account (IDA) program run by the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF), individuals at risk for or experiencing homelessness receive financial education, access matched savings accounts, and have saved a total of $89,831.55. This is notable as low-income individuals often lack access to the means to build assets, which can moderate financial distress. In this mixed-method study we examine the program's impact through administrative data, surveys, and qualitative interviews. Of the 17 interview participants, 15 opened an account, saving an average of $1,356.24 toward housing, emergency savings, cars, education, and computers. Few U.S. IDA programs have served those experiencing homelessness, although the results demonstrate they can save, which is remarkable considering the U.S. saving rate has been steadily declining to close to zero. Our findings suggest that this model is effective in working with the most disadvantaged populations to successfully acquire financial assets.

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