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Able Works, formerly Northern California Urban Development, began in 2005 after a rainy car-ride discussion between our two co-founders, John Liotti and Marc Prioleau. John and Marc were interested in exploring how they could help the community of East Palo Alto break the chains of oppression and generational poverty without duplicating efforts of other non-profit organizations. They wanted to fight alongside the community and challenge the inequalities they saw in the education, banking, housing and employment sectors. They surmised that Able Works would be different from other non-profits; that it would be less about programs and handouts, and more about developing assets, leaders and knowledge. It would be a more difficult path, take a larger financial investment and possibly more time, but the results would be longer lasting and the community would have a hand in it.

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2006

In early 2006, Able Works began to advocate on behalf of the community to bring a financial institution into East Palo Alto. At the time, our community depended heavily on predatory service providers and street-level loan sharks to conduct business, but Able Works saw that without a dependable financial institution the community would continue to lose precious assets. We decided to develop a partnership with Community Trust Credit Union to bring a branch into East Palo Alto. The branch opened in early 2007, and in the first two years served over 500 individuals in the local community. When the economy declined, Community Trust Credit Union, which had full control over the branch, consolidated their efforts and relocated the branch to east San Jose. As a result of our efforts, other banking institutions have followed our example and are now serving our community.

2007

In 2007, Able Works began a financial education program specifically geared toward high school-aged students titled FutureProfits™. Since its inception, FutureProfits™ has taught over 4,225 under-resourced students in south San Mateo County, and each year the program continues to grow. The students we serve gain knowledge that helps them navigate the American financial system. Through our classes conducted during the school day, students understand the value of budgeting, the difficulties of living on minimum wage, and the damaging effects of accepting the media’s definition of financial success. This program helps young people prepare for life after high school, encourages them to pursue higher education and educates them on the traps of debt, bad loans and other predatory services.

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2009

In August of 2009, Able Works expanded again. This time it was in response to the housing crises affecting our community. Our program, HouseAble, seeks to help distressed homeowners facing foreclosure by offering free services to assist in the loan modification process. We also counsel first-time homebuyers and individuals seeking to rebuild their credit so they can purchase homes in our community. Able Works was particularly burdened by the large amount of foreclosures in East Palo Alto (10% of the housing stock) and its effect on school funding, along with the increase of crime due to vacant homes. Our commitment to help the community build sustainable assets was in jeopardy if we could not help people keep the assets they had already built. We were compelled to respond. Since 2009, we have helped over 450 families and individuals facing foreclosure and 30% of these have been senior citizens or families with young children.

2010

In late 2010, Able Works was invited to partner with the County of San Mateo and the Wells Fargo Foundation to safeguard the housing stock of East Palo Alto from outside investors and rising gentrification. HouseAble, accomplishes this by purchasing distressed properties, rehabilitating them and making them available to working-class families through a Community Land Trust or as subsidized rental properties.

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2012

In 2012, Able Works began our LiveAble:Women program focused on helping single, head of household women, ages 18-30 who want to better their lives, families, and communities. We began with one cohort of 15 women who journeyed together over 12 months and found that the program had amazing outcomes. Each of the women felt more stable, secure, and ready to achieve their personal and financial goals. LiveAble is now in its fifth year and will have 4 cohorts running concurrently.