Looking for work? Looking to dissolve your debt and increase your credit score?
Then, look no further than the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s new Economic Solutions Center.
Offering everything from financial and legal counseling, to tax assistance and career coaching, the ESC has consolidated its sundry services into one establishment, housed at 1368 Fulton Street.
Situated directly behind Restoration’s main location, the new Economic Solutions Center officially opened on September 20, but has been functioning in the new site since early August. Construction was funded by Home Depot and Robin Hood.
Previously housed in two disparate sites along Fulton Street with one office on the fourth floor, the new spot has already eased daily operations of the staff, while minimizing the effort required of potential participants.
“We lost a lot of clients in that short walk, ” said Jako Borren, director of program operations at Restoration. “Now clients come in for one reason and are introduced to all of our other services.”
Last year, in partnership with the Food Bank for New York City, the ESC served over 7500 Brooklyn residents, 5000 of which were served for tax preparation. “If your annual income is less than $50,000, then we file your taxes for free,” Borren clarified.
Of that number, only about 20 percent took advantage of multiple services. Yet that is certainly set to increase, given that all of the departments are now in one physical space.
Aside from tax prep, the ESC really does just about anything for people looking to stabilize their financial status and improve career eligibility.
Following a model by which clients are initially screened for benefits, the ESC looks for potential qualifiers of food stamps, childcare, or social security benefits. And in combination with one-on-one Financial Coaching, these services stabilize financial household situations, taking away some of the financial worries of clients, and enabling them to focus on training and career development.
The career development programs include interview training, cover-letter assistance, resume building, employee networking and job-readiness workshops.
Borren places special significance on all of the job preparation programs, citing Attitudes and Behavior at the Workplace as a hugely beneficial course for increasing an employee’s job dependability.
“If you’re really worried about your finances, it reflects in interviews and on the job,” Borren said. It is a goal of the ESC to follow through with their clients even after they’re hired, motivating them to stay on the job and to increase their savings.
More recently, the ESC has begun to facilitate OSHA licensing in partnership with Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center, for safety training on construction sites, including scaffolding, flagging, and other safety related courses.
There is also a new food service program developed in partnership with Kingsborough Community College, for individuals interested in front end food service and back end culinary-arts.
In the past three years, the staff has doubled its size, growing from some 15 to over 35, while the number of residents served has tripled, with people coming from nearly every Brooklyn neighborhood and even as far away as the Bronx.
Although it is named for the Bedford Stuyvesant area, Restoration has already service-specific locations into Downtown Brooklyn and Brownsville, with the Brownsville branches specializing in financial coaching, job readiness training and career placement services.
In regards to the new building, Borren claimed that its physical presence is reassuring to those in need. “Even the staff is much happier,” he says, as the old headquarters were ill equipped, with a leaky roof and tarps draped over the desks when it rained. “It was not a comforting sight for someone seeking financial assistance.” Borren recalled.
Neighborhood residents and visitors are invited to the Open House on Wednesday, October 12 or Saturday, October 15. The Open House provides families and individuals with a host of services towards gainful employment, financial independence, and healthy living. See www.restorationplaza.org for details.