Our Approach

Our Approach

CEF promotes sustained transitions out of homelessness and poverty. To do so, CEF bridges two sectors that rarely, if ever, intersect: banks and shelters. CEF connects low-income individuals to saving opportunities and banking literacy, and works in communities that financial institutions historically will not go anywhere near.


Because without access to financial services, low-income households are relegated to continue living on the margin, and often from paycheck to paycheck. CEF has proven that education, relationships, and accountability make saving possible for low-income individuals in transition.

We do what we do because we believe that access to high-quality affordable financial services is a human right for all people, regardless of socio-economic status. However, in the U.S., this is not necessarily the case.

  • An estimated 7.7 % of U.S. households, approximately 9 million, are unbanked.
  • 8.2 % of NC households are unbanked.
  • 42 % of Hispanic NC households are unbanked.
  • 15.6 % of American Indians are unbanked
  • 19.7 % of African American NC households are unbanked

Unbanked households have a checking or savings account but rely on often exploitative financial services like non-bank money orders, non-bank check-cashing services, payday loans, rent-to-own agreements, or pawn shops at least once or twice a year or refund.

The services that are accessible to low-income populations are frequently low-quality and/or unaffordable. For example, the average amount of a credit card transaction in the United States is $70 and the highest interest rate charged on any credit card is 41%, according to CompuCredit, which did not name the issuer. Complicated policies and fees discourage people from using banks. 29% of unbanked individuals report that lower fees would encourage them to open a bank account.

Access to high-quality affordable financial services can enhance the quality of life and economic productivity of low-income households and microenterprises. Low-income households and microenterprises often have small unpredictable incomes that can vary significantly in periods of unemployment, financial hardship, illness, etc. Services like savings, credit and education can help smooth this income and provide these individuals with access to their past or future income. For example, through savings families can ensure financial stability for themselves and their families during these difficult periods. Through credit, families can access funds in the short-term they may not be currently able to self-generate through income, but will be able to pay off over the long-term with future income. Finally, financial education gives individuals the skills they need to successfully utilize financial services to reach their goals. Most simply and above all, individuals need high-quality affordable financial services to realize their personal goals.