The federal treasury department’s honoring a Des Moines agency for the financial training it’s providing to homeless teens. “Money Matters on the Street” is the program offered by Iowa Homeless Youth Centers. The kids are 16 to 21 years old and live in cars, shelters, and sometimes in apartments — and the program’s Trish Harlow says this program succeeds because it offers them incentives. The kids have no money so they figure they don’t have anything to learn about managing money — with their street mentality, you share it and give it away if you have it, and if you get 500-dollars you’re rich, all of which does not lead to good decisions about money. Harlow says they taught the “Money Matters” program while the teens also got gift cards or jobs at the centers that paid them a little money, which heightened their interest. She says the program teaches everything from the cost of renting an apartment to the importance of savings accounts to what makes up a “livable wage.” That 6-dollar-an-hour job doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford an apartment, with the cost of rent, deposit, and utilities — they learn all about what it takes. Harlow says the program helps young people with important purchases that will make a big difference in their lives. One example is a young man whose savings for a car were matched dollar-for-dollar by the Casey Foundation. He really needed it because he works at welding and can’t get to job sites without a car. She tells of a young woman who could get work if she could travel at times the buses didn’t run so she needed a car. The treasure department’s honored the “Money Matters on the Street” program with the John Serman award for excellence in financial education.
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