It was a simpler time.
Ragtime music played on the radio. Silent films starring Charlie Chaplin showed on the silver screen. Acres Homes was established. It was the World War I era, just over 100 years ago.
“I’m a third-generation Acres Homes resident,” beamed Ruby Glass. “My grandparents raised three children here who all finished college.”
Acres Homes spreads across nine square miles in northwest Houston. It’s a relatively small portion of one of America’s largest cities. But the memories created here, particularly for those who grew up in its heyday, are larger than life.
“Everything we needed was here,” Glass recalled. “We didn’t go anywhere else. We didn’t have to.”
People walked to the farmer’s market, to school and to church along the quaint streets.
“There was a true sense of community,” Glass said.
And then things changed.
Acres Homes – which received its name from land sold by the acre, encouraging residents to tend gardens and raise animals – started declining in the 1980s. Drugs and crime tore at the fabric of the area. A place known for large lots and family farms became more known for disinvestment and decay.
Today, Acres Homes still has its challenges. But it has new opportunities, too.
It’s one of 10 areas that are the focus of Houston’s Complete Communities program, a citywide initiative championed by Mayor Sylvester Turner. Turner knows the history, and potential, of Acres Home. Like Glass, he’s from here, too.
“Complete Communities is a catalyst for change,” said Mayor Turner. “It is an initiative empowering us to invest resources – both financially and through our people – into Acres Homes and several other communities that have long been under-resourced. We are building on the pride residents have for their neighborhoods as we help them strengthen these areas of Houston and develop their own personal economic resilience.”
Empowering people to build their own financial success is the idea behind two new Financial Empowerment Centers in Houston. One is opening in Acres Home; another is in Magnolia Park-Manchester on the city’s east side.
The centers deliver free, one-on-one financial counseling – helping people develop a roadmap toward greater financial stability. Further, these locations are tied into a national network of Financial Empowerment Centers that have served more than 100,000 clients in recent years, helping them reduce debt by $146 million while collectively saving $22 million over the last decade.
Regions Bank is a partner in Houston’s Financial Empowerment Centers, providing $250,000 to enable financial coaching.
“Houston is a city that’s thriving on the global stage,” said Mark Jacobs, Greater Houston Market Executive for Regions. “We owe it to our neighbors to help more people have an opportunity to take part in our city’s success.”
“This is a springboard,” said Glass, who was at the Acres Homes Multi-Service Center as the ribbon was cut and clients were welcomed for financial counseling. “It’s a space where we can be honest about goals and put a plan in place. What we come up with here will be implemented in other areas.”
Glass is seeking insights not only for her personal finances as a caregiver to relatives, but also for her business. She runs WYK & Company, LLC, a contractor providing moving and concierge services.
“WYK stands for ‘What You Know,’” she explained.
What Glass knows is offering people a second chance creates life-changing opportunities.
Among WYK’s independent contractors, some have experienced addiction or have been incarcerated. Glass has instilled a sense of accountability among them. Her expectations include punctuality, professional attire and exceeding client expectations.
“It’s all about who they trust,” said Glass, regarding her clients. “My independent contractors know their actions reflect not only on themselves, but also on me.”
And plenty of people know Glass for her dedication to the area. After Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston in 2017, Glass organized a donation station at a Boys & Girls Club to collect and distribute diapers, milk, water, clothes, cleaning supplies and more. Roughly 800 people were served.
“You find what’s necessary during those times,” said Glass. “And you learn the significance of what it means to be a community.”
To some degree, the Financial Empowerment Center – and the broader Complete Communities program – represent another chance for Acres Homes itself. For Glass, everything circles back to that sense of community she knew as a child. Beyond her own goals, she’s excited about the potential for other families in terms of paying down debt, saving for the future and staying in their Home.
“They don’t want to leave this neighborhood,” said Glass. “They like it here. If you give people a different journey, they’ll stay. This is about providing them with a path.”
That can-do spirit harkens back to the days of what made this neighborhood so special.
“Acres Homes has produced some really good people,” said Glass. “We’re looking forward to reviving. We never stopped being us.”