Posted by Gabriela Torres

Neighborhood Housing Services of the Inland Empire helps residents get the information and assistance they need to buy their own homes or keep the ones they are in.

The ideal result is stronger communities.

Neighborhood Housing Services of the Inland Empire was founded in 1981 by World War II veterans Leonard Davenport, Luis Navarette and Jack Hill. Their focus was helping underserved populations in San Bernardino buy housing. Today, the organization serves all of the Inland Empire and has a larger goal of supporting sustainable communities and improving people’s quality of life.

According to Lily Rodriguez, board president of NHSIE, first-time homeowners must navigate a maze of misinformation to find the tools they need and to be truly prepared to buy a house. NHSIE combats this by offering free educational workshops designed to give participants the right information, increase their financial knowledge and address their ability to buy and maintain a home.

“Homeownership is attainable,” Rodriguez said. “We unfortunately live in a society of instant gratification, but homeownership doesn’t fall under this category and you can’t put it in someone else’s hands. You have to educate yourself and do the work.”

In addition to financial counseling, the organization offers realty and lending services that make managing a down payment and closing costs feasible. Rodriguez said offering such services to potential homeowners is an important component to building strong communities because someone living in a home he buys has a higher likelihood of upgrading and maintaining a home compared with an investor.

“A homebuyer going into a fixer has zeal and the energy of pride of ownership that is very high,” Rodriguez said. “You have a very good chance that the home will be brought up to a higher level of curb appeal. They will also establish roots and become more involved in the community.”

Such commitment to the community can be seen on NHSIE’s board. Rodriguez said one of the families the agency assisted was a young single mother who had lost her home but was able to get back on track and buy another one.

“She took advantage of the programs, bought into the community and she is fixing up her own home,” Rodriguez said. “More than that, now she’s giving back by serving on the board.”

NHSIE also assists homeowners who are struggling to stay out of foreclosure. It offers trained and experienced homeownership advisers who work one on one with clients to get on a path of financial stability. Rodriguez said this also is critical to the health of a community.

“When a homeowner gives up on keeping their home, from a community visual standpoint, you lose curb appeal,” she said.

Getting the word out about the services NHSIE offers is challenging. Rodriguez said when people have managed to navigate out of a difficult financial situation, they are unlikely to share their story.

Such lack of awareness makes finding funding challenging. Recently, NHSIE received financial assistance from the Youth Grantmakers-San Bernardino fund through the Community Foundation, but it can always use more funding.

It also needs the community to promote NHSIE.


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