Hope Enterprise Corporation (HOPE) serves the Mid South states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, one of the most distressed and impoverished regions of the United States. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, of the 384 counties within the United States that are classified as persistent poverty counties – counties where the poverty rate has been greater than 20% for the last 30 years – 97, or 25.2% are located in HOPE’s service area. In these counties, nearly half of the residents are people of color.
The Mid South has long been plagued by disinvestment in opportunity structures such as schools, health care facilities, housing, small businesses, and financial institutions. As a result, disparities along race and class lines have been widening. For example, in Mississippi, 77% of majority white school districts received the highest quality ratings of “A” or “B”. In contrast, only 6% of majority black school districts are rated “A” or “B”. Similar differences and inequity also exist in the quality of school facilities, access to health care facilities, healthy food retail outlets, and housing quality. On matters of employment, black unemployment in the region is typically higher than black unemployment nationally, while white unemployment rates generally fall below national averages.
HOPE’s mission acutely focuses on responding to the challenges faced by these communities – persistent poverty, limited opportunities, and lack of access to quality financial services. Similar challenges confront communities throughout the United States and across the globe. HOPE’s model provides important lessons for these communities about expanding access to capital, promoting economic development, building financial capability and increasing investment in low-income, distressed and low-income communities. HOPE is a cooperative that pools resources to fund the structures needed to move families out of poverty – jobs, schools, housing and low cost, reliable financial services. As a member-owned financial institution, every member – regardless of his or her net worth – has the power to make the institution work for his or her family and community.