New life is coming to one of El Paso’s oldest neighborhoods through the generous support of the Loaves and Fishes Fund, established anonymously by generous donors and administered by the Paso del Norte Community Foundation
Since it was founded in 2015, Loaves and Fishes has granted more than $25,000 to local programs working to find long term solutions to homelessness, poverty and low educational attainment. Most recently, Loaves and Fishes awarded $10,000 to local nonprofit Ciudad Nueva for its housing initiative called Casas del Rio Grande.
“Ciudad Nueva’s mission is to advance the renewal and development of central El Paso’s Rio Grande neighborhood by empowering the families who live there,” said Executive Director Sami DiPasquale.
While the Rio Grande neighborhood symbolizes the historic and close-knit nature of many of El Paso’s older neighborhoods, it also suffers from many of the same conditions. It contains some of the highest levels of poverty in the Paso del Norte region with a median household income of $16,630-per year. About a quarter of households earn less than $10,000-per year, according to census data.
“One of the keys to empowering the community is home ownership; it’s a springboard to the middle class,” said Di Pasquale.
Home ownership promises to be an especially empowering tool in the Rio Grande neighborhood where 78 percent of residents are renters and 58 percent live in rental units with only one bedroom or no bedroom.
“With the generous grant from Loaves and Fishes and other members of the community, we are on the path towards raising $250,000 to purchase a rental property that would serve as transitional housing for future home owners,” said DiPasquale.
Ciudad Nueva’s plan is to accept qualified tenants who are interested in a three-year homeownership program, which would educate them on topics such as obtaining a mortgage, understanding credit and money management. The Casas del Rio Grande initiative will also match Individual Development Account contributions for tenants to save for down payments and help tenants strengthen their credit. Ciudad Nueva also hopes to partner with financial institutions to pre-qualify tenants for down payment assistance, according to DiPasquale.
“Ciudad Nueva embodies what we were thinking about when we started this fund,” said one of the Loaves and Fishes Fund’s anonymous founders. “They are providing housing for people and helping them toward a bridge to financial security. By doing our small part, we hope that we can help lift up the community and that in turn, that community will turn around and do the same and complete the cycle.”
When the fund was started in 2015, the anonymous couple who founded Loaves and Fishes didn’t have a lot to give. But they believed that by encouraging others to combine their resources — much like the story in the Gospel of John from which the organization draws its name — that the fund could make a difference.
“The Paso del Norte Community Foundation has been a resource for helping us direct grant money to organizations we wouldn’t have known about, who are doing tremendous work to uplift the community,” anonymous founders said.
In addition to helping match the fund’s donors with existing community organizations which could most effectively accomplish the donor’s purpose, the Paso del Norte Community Foundation has offered operational support, which carries the fund’s mission even farther.
To donate to Loaves and Fishes, click here.