University of Alabama’s HomeFirst Program Receives USDA Grant

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By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs


Tuscaloosa, Ala. — Nivory Gordon Jr., Alabama State Director for USDA Rural Development, announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $193,394 in grants to assist The University of Alabama (UA) in providing financial wellness training to prospective first-time homebuyers in rural west Alabama through the University’s HomeFirst program.

HomeFirst is a financial wellness initiative that serves low- to moderate-income individuals and families throughout Greene, Hale and Tuscaloosa Counties on their path toward first-time homeownership or foreclosure prevention. The program, which is powered by the UA Division of Community Affairs’ Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), is offered at no cost to qualifying participants.

The USDA grant, announced at a luncheon in Eutaw, is made through the Rural Community Development Initiative Grant program. This funding will allow HomeFirst the opportunity to expand on its existing work in Greene County through an ongoing partnership with the Housing Authority of Greene County, directed by Anita Lewis.

“I am honored to be here, and I am happy to see all of the stakeholders and partners here in this facility today,” said Gordon, who went on to note the critical role UA students will play in this initiative. “I am excited about you having students from The University of Alabama coming in and working with our community,” he said. “Homeownership in Alabama’s rural communities is crucial to the continued growth and development of rural Alabama,” said Gordon. “Through investments like the one made here today, we can help rural individuals and families purchase a home, maintain a home, and thrive in rural Alabama.”

Since 2019, Dr. Nicole Prewitt, CCBP’s director of Programs and Partnerships for Community Engagement, has directed UA’s HomeFirst program. A key element of the program is that participants receive one-on-one financial coaching from UA students trained to provide assistance in core areas of housing and financial capability, including savings, money management, credit building, debt reduction and homebuyer education. While some participants go on to become homebuyers shortly after completion of the program, others utilize what they have learned to take additional time to plan for that process and still others decide that the responsibilities of homeownership are not for them at this time. Regardless of their respective choices, participants overwhelmingly state improved financial capabilities, which are crucial to long-term stability and expanding the pool of eligible homeowners.

This partnership among the University, its students, the Housing Authority of Greene County and the rural residents of Greene County is representative of the campus/community partnerships common to CCBP. The 9,045 rural residents of Greene County stand to benefit, as do the UA students who participate as financial coaches through this initiative that advances the institutional mission of excellence in teaching, research and service.

About CCBP: CCBP is an initiative of UA’s Division of Community Affairs. Its initiatives support the University’s teaching, research and service mission and it serves as one of the campus’ main engines in the support of the University’s efforts to be an engaged institution. As defined by the Kellogg Commission: An engaged institution is responsive to the needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s. It enriches the student experience by bringing research into the curriculum and offering practical experience in the world they will enter. It forms partnerships of faculty, students and communities to put knowledge and skills to work on today’s most critical problems. — From Returning to Our Roots: The Engaged Institution, Kellogg Commission Report, 1999). Learn more at

About RCDI: The Rural Community Development Initiative Grant program provides funding to help non-profit housing and community development organizations, low-income rural communities and federally recognized tribes support housing, community facilities and community and economic development projects in rural areas. This program serves eligible rural areas with populations of 50,000 or less.