This Profile of Effective Practice is one of fifteen stories examining how innovative, community-based initiatives are using comprehensive approaches to improve social and economic conditions on a local level.
The roots of the Saint John Community Loan Fund lie in the work of the Urban Core Support Network, an organization that advocates for people living on low-incomes. In the 1990s, Saint John had one of the highest poverty rates in the country at 27%, and the highest concentration of lone parent families in New Brunswick, of which 60% lived in poverty. In this setting, the idea of a community loan fund developed when people living on low incomes and committed advocates began wondering about how to help people create their own opportunity. A small amount of cash left over from a national conference spurred the idea of creating a community loan fund. "Lets use the money to seed a loan pool to help people start a business," said one of the volunteers. Cathy Wright, Executive Director of the city's social planning agency, having just returned from touring a Filipino woman's micro-lending organization, seconded the idea. The rest is history.