RICH creates opportunities for the financially challenged
At his day job at First Independence Bank, Vachel Hudson has always tried to reach folks who do not have access to financial services. In 2020, he started Reinvesting in Communities and Housing (RICH), a nonprofit that allows him more opportunities to assist people with financial education.
RICH offers financial services to people who often run into obstacles handling their money. The company offers financial education, mentorship, credit repair workshops, and one-on-one meetings for the homeless, youth, single parents, previously incarcerated people, and anyone else who needs it.
“My vision for RICH is to be the catalyst to financial literacy with affordable housing options to help support people’s dreams of ownership, wealth creation, and development,” Hudson said.
Hudson calls himself and RICH a disruptor of the traditional finance sector. He founded RICH during his work in housing advocacy firms and affordable housing providers because he occasionally had clients he was unable to help through the usual routes.
“I was helping folks, but I was always going home thinking about, man, those two or three people I met with today—I wasn’t able to do anything because there’s no resources, there’s no opportunity there,” Hudson said.
Many of Hudson’s clients were denied housing because of marks on their credit, rental or criminal history. One way Hudson got around this was by renting out a duplex himself; he offers below-market rates to tenants who participate in financial literacy programs through RICH and gives positive rental references after they move out.
Another solution Hudson found to assist people who had trouble finding rental housing was by going straight to homeownership. “If you just got back into the community, you’re working a job, you’ve been there for a year, yet you can’t find housing or are staying in your car, let’s start thinking about homeownership,” Hudson said.
“You could save up money for a down payment, take this class, make sure your credit is right, and instead of waiting five, six, seven years for someone to say yes to you to live at their property, you could go get approved for a loan and have your own property.”
RICH utilizes many community partners, such as First Independence Bank, where Hudson also works. Hudson says other First Independent Bank employees are glad to help, knowing the people helped by RICH could become future customers.
RICH works with many Black and youth-led community organizations such as Black Army Brigade, N4 Collective, and the Urban League Twin Cities Young Professionals, of which Hudson also serves as president.
On top of education, RICH works on housing advocacy. Hudson sent a proposal to the Minnesota Social Service Association (MSSA) asking them to focus on lobbying for a state law that would prevent landlords from using more than five years of criminal history to deny housing. MSSA made Hudson’s proposal one of their top priorities, but they are still in the process of getting any laws passed relating to it.
Hudson said he managed to get 15 millennials into homeownership in 2021 through RICH and has helped several clients get businesses off the ground, including one couple who he taught how to sell life insurance who used the income to make a down payment on a home.
Hudson plans to expand RICH’s operations in the future, bringing in more partners and types of financial education.
“When I apply for fellowships to get funding, they say, ‘Vachel, you’re doing a lot. Can you narrow it down?’ If I narrow it down, I’m leaving so many people out of the picture. So no, I can’t narrow it down because all of this is inclusive and goes hand and hand with one and another.” said Hudson.
He also hopes to develop apps that would connect people looking for housing or looking to become homeowners with services that could help them. “[People] also want to start conversations with a lender who looks like them,” Hudson said.
“A financial advisor who looks like them, an insurance agent who looks like them, so [we’re] creating the app that has all those folks local in this app where you’re having an opportunity to directly engage with them.”
Hudson encourages readers who think they could use his services to reach out to him. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, through his cell phone at 502-876-5257, or during business hours Monday through Friday and every other Saturday at First Independence Bank, located at 3430 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.
For more information, visit richmn.org or Facebook/@RiCHMN21.
Cole Miska is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.