Business & Society

Family Life Center Offers A Helping Hand

The Family Life Center, affiliated with the Department of Family and Human Development in the College of Education, is home to two unique, yet related programs: the Housing and Financial Counseling Center, and the Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic. Housed in a historic but modernized house at the bottom of Old Main Hill (493 North 700 East), the Family Life Center provides training for students and counseling to the community and students. In the following article, Melanie Stein takes a first-hand look at this beneficial resource.

Rich Man, Poor Man

Are you thinking about buying your first home? Or maybe you’re in danger of losing your home because of financial stress? If you are, HUD-approved Family Life Center Housing and Financial Counseling can help. Staff at the center — senior and graduate students and professional personnel — helped more than 2,000 people at workshops last year, especially home ownership workshops. Offered monthly, these workshops have helped many people through the home buying process. Supported entirely by private and public grants, most services at the center are free.

Maybe you’re a student trying to stay on top of your student loans or credit card debt. Currently students entering a public university pay $33,800 (on average) for four years of education and 10 percent have more than $7,000 in credit card debt. But the Family Life Center Housing and Financial Counseling staff can help. Last year center staff helped 258 students. They plan to counsel over 500 this coming year, aided by a private grant.

Perhaps your finances are in a state of crisis? Or are you one of the 70 percent of married couples who quarrel over money? Maybe you’re newly married and want to be among the 30 percent who don’t quarrel. A Smart Start workshop for newlyweds might be just the ticket. Or perhaps you just need a financial checkup. This past year, 620 people took advantage of individualized counseling at the Family Life Center.

I decided to get an inside look at the Family Life Center’s Housing and Financial Counseling program, so I signed up for a session. Considering the statistics, it’s especially important for women to get a grip on financial information. Poverty is far more common among women than men, especially single women and elderly women. Dr. Jean Lown, an HDFCS faculty member, offers free monthly workshops focused on helping women take control of their financial future. A schedule, a newsletter, and other financial resources for women are available at

The Family Life Center is a model institution — the only program of its kind in the world — serving the community year round and providing training through an educational degree program. Amber Gallagher, a supportive and professional graduate student, walked me through a typical counseling session.

Most people who visit the center have a compelling motivation to be there — they are about to lose their home, or their debts are out of control. Did you know that in 2001 Utah had the highest rate of nonbusiness bankruptcy in the nation? One out of 48 people in Utah filed for bankruptcy last year.

I was grateful I was only there for a financial checkup, not crisis counseling.

Amber walked me through a typical counseling session, showing me several budgeting methods, like the cash envelope method and the check register method. She also showed me a nifty way to analyze your savings needs. Tracking expenses, setting up a budgeting center, making time to talk about money — all these are strategies counselors discuss with clients. But the best benefit for me was the reassurance that most financial problems are solvable if you take the first step — start talking. Right now is a good time to get your finances in shape. And, if you have trouble resolving those ugly financial issues, the Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic is conveniently housed in the same building.

By Melanie Stein


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