The first step to buying a home is to find out what your credit score says about you, said Otis Monroe, CEO of the Monroe Foundation.

“You need to know your credit capacity. Some see it as an indicator of character, history and ability to pay back a loan,” Monroe said.

Monroe spoke at a meet-and-greet event Jan. 21 to kick off the Stable Project’s Proviso Township Homeownership and Financial Capability Project Office. The program will offer a series of free home buyer counseling and credit coaching classes, held at the offices of 7th Dist. State Rep. Chris Welch in Westchester.

The project will host a bi-monthly pre-homebuyer certification seminar, one-on-one pre-purchase counseling, foreclosure intervention counseling and one-on-one credit-building coaching.

 The project is organized and managed by the Monroe Foundation, a 25-year-old nonprofit community development advocacy organization.

Representatives from local banks, housing and community development organizations discussed ideas for the credit counseling and homebuyer classes at the event.

“You’ll be surprised how many people have errors on their credit report,” said Stacey Woods, financial coach of the North Lawndale Employment Network. “After the workshops, they’ll become credit-building experts and know what to do and what not to do as far as building credit.”

Woods said participants in workshops learn how the credit system functions and the benefits of having a good credit score.

Representative Welch said the classes will help people build up their credit scores and give them a piece of the American dream by owning a home.

“If we can make this program successful here, it can be a model for other districts,” Welch said after the event.

“I look at this as mentoring for adults. Lots of adults we’re dealing with don’t have financial literacy skills for whatever reason and our job is to help them get there,” he added.

Welch said the rooms to be used in his 7th District office space are not paid for by state funds. His office provides space for the classes at no cost to the Stable Project or the Monroe Foundation.

“I want to ensure folks coming into our office that this is all about helping them. Nobody is trying to get over on them,” Welch said. “The counseling sessions will be intimate. There will be a couple of private offices they’ll be able to use.”

Monroe, founder of the Monroe Foundation, said there has been a reported slight increase in foreclosure filings in Proviso Township.

He added this project will provide an office space to help borrowers who may be at risk of default.

“This gives us a localized access point where borrowers who are struggling can meet one on one with one of the HUD-approved counseling agencies of the Stable Project,” Monroe said.

“It’s also for those who want to buy and purchase within the Proviso Township community and residents who want credit building, strengthening and sustainability.”

Monroe said a credit score and the ability to pay back a loan is more important now than ever before buying a home, applying for a job or taking out a loan.

 “It’s important you know what are the best and affordable options for the family.”

The project hopes to encourage investment in Proviso Township through home ownership. Monroe thanked Welch for collaborating with the Monroe Foundation and the Stable Project.

The credit coaching and homebuyer counseling classes will be offered every second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 10 a.m. to noon and Saturdays from 1-3 p.m.

Classes will be available by appointment only at Welch’s district office, 10055 Roosevelt Road in Westchester.

For more information on the credit building workshops and homebuyer classes, contact Athena Williams, project manager for the Monroe Foundation, at 773-914-1534 or