Program Profile: Justine PETERSEN

It’s exciting to see the “light bulb” turn on as they begin to understand credit building as asset building, and how it allows clients to have higher credit scores sooner and faster and how simple the process is.
-Kristin Schell, Credit Building Manager

Justine PETERSEN Housing & Reinvestment Corporation is a Missouri not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation with offices in St Louis, MO, East St. Louis and Granite City, Illinois. Named after the late Justine M. Petersen who helped hundreds of low- to moderate-income families purchase their own homes, Justine PETERSEN continues in her footsteps. They help families build financial security by providing credit building and financial education, homeownership preparation and retention services, and micro-enterprise lending and technical assistance.

A Unique Approach to Asset Building
Core to Justine PETERSEN’s mission is the focus of credit building as asset building. Pioneers in the credit building field, they have embraced credit reports and credit scores as a consumer’s number one asset to build other assets like homeownership, small business start-up and growth, and achieve financial stability. What sets Justine PETERSEN apart from many credit building organizations is their ownership of a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Great Rivers Community Capital (GRCC), certified by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Through Great Rivers Community Capital they have been able to provide safe credit building products, which include creating and piloting new credit building models. To date Justine PETERSEN has:

  • Assisted  4,300 households to purchase homes, accessing $345 million in safe, affordable mortgage loans
  • Originated over $10.7 million in micro-loans to 2,400 micro-enterprises
  • Opened 1,500 IDA accounts and facilitated 1,000 matched withdrawals for asset purchases

A Story of Impact
JP client-staffMs. Hall came to Justine PETERSEN to increase her credit score, she had focused on paying off her debt and repairing her credit score herself but hit a plateau and wanted help after going through a short sale of her home.  From her first meeting with her credit building counselor, Ms. Hall reviewed the student loan and car loan debts contributing to her 580 credit score. Together they worked on crafting a personal budget and decided the next step was to open a secured credit card to continue to boost her score. She used the secured credit card for credit building instead of normal consuming by keeping the balance below $90 and making payments on time. In one year her credit score rose 60 points to 640. “Even the small increases in credit score can be a game changer towards behavior change in our clients,” said Kristin Schell. Ms. Hall was able to refinance her car loan through a local credit union from an interest rate of 17% to 5%, which will save her $6,300 over five years. Ms. Hall continues on her credit building path so her credit report and score will allow her to pursue another home purchase when she is ready.

Helping Other Non-Profits with Credit Building
In addition to innovating through new products and services, they have been training other non-profits nationally and in Illinois to adopt the same credit building best practices with their clients. This includes Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s (LISC) Center for Working Families, the Chicago Credit Building Coalition, and the Aspen Institute’s FIELD “Asset Building Through Credit” Program. Justine PETERSEN continues to expand its presence in Illinois having just opened up its Granite City location, and looks to help train other non-profits in credit building using their innovative model and services.

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