By Sarah Ramirez- Norwood News
After nearly 30 years, the University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP) celebrated a new milestone with the opening of the Northwest Bronx Resource Center last week.
The Center is a joint effort with six established non-profits (led by UNHP) to provide Bronxites with free tax preparation, financial coaching, foreclosure prevention assistance and small business help at one Bronx location, the Refuge House at 2715 Bainbridge Ave., near East 196th Street.
“Community work is a team effort,” said Jim Buckley, UNHP’s executive director.
Originally founded by Fordham University in 1983, UNHP works to preserve and create affordable housing in the community.
It is an uphill battle as the number of neighborhoods where the city’s working class can afford to live continues to dwindle. Despite rents in the Bronx being among the lowest in the city, about half of Bronxites spend half of their incomes on rent.
“The Bronx is underserved and continues to be underserved,” said Jumelia Abrahamson of UNHP.
In the past UNHP has hosted neighborhood resource fairs with representatives from non-profit partners, including the Financial Clinic, Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, Ariva, Fordham Bedford Community Service and Project Enterprise, to provide residents with assistance with their finances. Still, the need for a central, constant presence was felt.
“The biggest thing is that in the past we had been referring people to a phone number [outside of the fairs],” said Buckley. “This way we’ll have a fixed number for people to call, get an appointment and come get help. The fact that we can offer services in the neighborhood was key.”
“[It’s important to] extend these services to a diverse population in the Bronx in a holistic manner,” Abrahamson said. “It comes full circle, all those organizations helping the same homeowner.”
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, locals who have previously used UNHP’s free tax prep services praised its programs.
“We’re here to give infinite thanks,” said Esbelin Guzman, who has been filing her taxes with UNHP for three years.
“There are no words to express what the Center has done in terms of helping empowering myself and educating myself,” said Aneudy Encarnación. “This is another success for our community. On behalf of the community, thank you for having our backs.”
State Senator Gustavo Rivera also admitted to using services provided by UNHP.
“I’m a very good example of what a young professional of color in the Bronx needs,” Rivera said. “I have a 630 credit score – and that’s gotten better [since he’s received help from UNHP].”