Program aims to help metro Detroiters pay down debt, buy a house

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Posted at 5:47 AM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 11:06:19-05

(WXYZ) — Have you been struggling to pay down your debt, improve your credit score and buy a house? A lot of people just can't seem to get ahead due to inflation and rising home costs.

But an updated free program is aiming to help — and even give you money. The program is offered by Gesher Human Services — formerly JVS Human Services.

Linda Johnson went through the program after dreaming of owning her own home for years.

She and her husband bought a home in Dearborn Heights in the fall of 2021 after she completed the "HarMoney" financial education program.

“When I started [the HarMoney program] my credit score was 640. And when I went to purchase the home, it was 720 something," Johnson said.

Through online and one-on-one sessions, she learned how to budget, pay down debt, and save money.

When she enrolled in 2020, it was a 12-week course that went virtual due to the pandemic. She had plenty of phone calls with the instructors who also gave her 'homework.'

She had to list every single expenditure she made. Then she had to look at how much food she had in the house.

“Going through the pantry. And then you had to go through your freezer, and make sure, I mean you have meals in there that you double buy or triple buy," Johnson said.

She learned a big lesson about spending: Do you need it, or do you want it?

Laltsha Cunningham, the financial capabilities manager for Gesher Human Services said this year's program is called "HarMoney 2.0: A Place to Call Home."

“What makes this program unique compared to other financial health programs out there?” I asked.

"It's unique because it's very interactive, it's engaging, there's a lot of information, but also there's a grant that comes after," Cunningham said.

"We really want to target low-to-moderate income families. We're starting at a credit score of about 620," Cunningham explained.

Past participants who completed the original 12-week program could receive a grant of up to $1,000. This year with the new condensed six-week program, that grant could be up to $2,500 — which could be used for a down payment on a home or to pay down debt.

Huntington National Bank is making the program possible by providing grant money through its Strategic Community Plan.

“Have you found there is a great need for financial education?" I asked Huntington's Detroit Community President Latrice McClendon.

"Absolutely, financial education and financial inclusion. And as a bank, and as at Huntington, we believe that it's our job to, you know, we can't, you know, fix everything, but we can do our part. And that's why we have our $40 billion Community Plan," Latrice McClendon said.

McClendon said $1 billion of Huntington National Bank's Strategic Community Plan has been committed to metro Detroit to help those who need it most.

The six-week HarMoney program will begin on Monday, March 13 and run through April 17.

To learn more or to register, call Gesher Human Services at 248-233-4299 or email