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Guest op-ed: Cottages of Hope’s impact on our local community

By Shannon Sebahar and Pam Parkinson - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Dec 3, 2021
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This 2017 file photo shows Cottages of Hope in Ogden.
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Shannon Sebahar
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Pam Parkinson

Sometimes people just need a little help. Whether it’s from a church, the government, a teacher or a friend, we’ve all been in a position to need financial help or guidance to move forward. This is especially true for those who rely on the safety net our community and state provide to be sure they can survive with the most basic of necessities. Public benefits are meant to be a temporary lifeline, but even with the current low unemployment numbers in Utah, making the transition off of these benefits can be a very big step. Many jobs acquired by those who receive benefits don’t pay enough to support rent, food, child care and other essentials. Some are turned away from quality employment due to previous convictions and some can’t pass the credit checks to qualify for anything but the lowest-paying jobs. Moving from public benefits to a series of low-paying jobs with no insurance is hardly a step out of poverty.

Cottages of Hope, a local nonprofit focused on helping people to become financially stable and self-sufficient, is one of the solutions our community has to help people make that step. Case managers at many of our local service organizations provide critical and essential help, but once a job is secured or food stamps are cut off, support becomes limited. This is where Cottages of Hope fills a gap and finds itself as a partner to these front-line service providers and steps in to support and educate people making a transition to self-sufficiency.

It’s the “Teach a man to fish …” philosophy. The end goal is for our fellow citizens to be able to provide for themselves and thereby reduce the taxpayer dollars required for services. It’s to keep former offenders in stable housing and employment, so they don’t end up back in jail. It’s to increase household stability, which not only reduces crime but increases our neighborhood livability. But what if people still need help navigating the world of employment, housing, credit, debt, budgeting and possibly expungement?

Cottages of Hope has been providing free services to the Ogden community for 15 years. Over the past five years alone, significant impacts have been made in our community including:

  • Over $1.7 million average annual increase in household income by all participants in the job coaching program, nearly all expended or saved in Northern Utah.
  • More than $1.8 million in debt repayments to local, regional and national businesses by over 350 households.
  • Over $400,000 in overdue and current child support payments made to custodial parents and the state of Utah.
  • An average credit score increase of 115 points for individuals and families undergoing financial coaching, resulting in lower interest rates and better housing and employment opportunities.
  • Twenty housing counseling clients, all previously in significant debt, who have become first-time homebuyers, an investment in our community of over $2.5 million.
  • Over $700,000 in tax preparation savings for low- and moderate-income families through the VITA free tax preparation and filing program.
  • Help with expungements to allow those who are eligible to find better employment and stable housing. (Note: Both Weber County Sheriff Ryan Arbon and Ogden City Police Chief Eric Young serve on the Cottages of Hope Board of Directors and support these programs.)

It is hard work to make the leap toward self-sufficiency and can take years to become truly financially stable. Cottages of Hope is here for those who just need a little (or a lot) of help along the way.

Shannon Sebahar and Pam Parkinson reside in Weber County and serve as board members for Cottages of Hope.

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