Members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs acquire less wealth and fewer assets than their neighbors in other central Oregon communities. Factors, such as unemployment, poverty, low educational attainment, and social and public health challenges have contributed to this gap. In 2011, the Warm Springs Reservation was a rural, remote, and impoverished community with an unemployment rate between 43% and 68%. Residents of the reservation were three times more likely than other Oregonians to live in poverty. The per capita income on the reservation was 43.6% that of the state and the median family income was only 62.9% of the state median.
In 2012, the Warm Springs Community Action Team (WSCAT) was funded by ANA to develop and implement a comprehensive asset building program through the Native Asset Building Initiative (NABI). This program would enable reservation residents to build financial management skills and acquire assets leading to self-sufficiency and a higher quality of life. It was just the sort of project needed to give hope to potential business owners, home owners, and students.
WSCAT developed an asset building approach rooted in the specific needs and circumstance of the Warm Springs Reservation. The focuses of the project were:
- Outreach and Recruitment
- Training and Financial Counseling
- Credit Repair
- Building a Savings Base through an Individual Development Account (IDA)
- Developing Plans for the Use of the IDA Towards a Specific Asset
- Asset Acquisition or IDA Use for an AFI-Approved Purpose
Along with its outreach efforts, WSCAT created a referral network to ensure every household on the reservation had multiple opportunities to learn about the program. The referral network allowed individuals to connect with staff, learn about the offerings, and seek the level of assistance that suited their circumstances. WSCAT also worked with Warm Springs Radio, KWSO 91.9, to provide regular public service announcements about the IDA program and educational offerings provided by WSCAT and its project partners.
WSCAT began its work with each participant by assessing their current financial situation and establishing a one-on-one relationship. Weekly financial education, homeownership education, and business start-up and management training classes were offered. The program even offered participants training in how to choose an educational program, vehicle, or home renovation contractor that fit their needs.
WSCAT has been a resounding success, surpassing the financial and time limits of its NABI grant. Hundreds of tribal members received in education in financial or homeownership education, paid for college or vocational education, bought a car, or renovated a home. The program’s outreach efforts ensured that it is now well known in the community, providing hope on the reservation. At the time of the project’s end in 2016, WSCAT claimed to be the largest asset building program, with the most clients, of any organization in the NABI or elsewhere in Indian Country. WSCAT had $580,000 in grant funding and expected to receive $200,000 more in 2017 from the Oregon IDA Initiative. This funding was put towards matching community member’s IDA accounts and will sustain the program. WSCAT expects to continue working with the Oregon IDA Initiative until 2024 and is expanding its course offerings by adding three new courses on IDA usage in 2018. WSCAT is confident in its capacity to sustain the program, with strong financial, political, and community support.
- 136 Savings plans created
- 19 Businesses started
- 10 Saved enough to pay for college/vocational education
- 14 Cars purchased
- 5 Homes renovated
- 4 Homes purchased
- 240 Received a financial education
- 170 Received homeownership education
- 99 Received business start-up and management training