CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Half of all people who seek help from non profits in the Charlotte area don't have bank accounts. That statistic motivated the Urban League of the Carolinas to open their own bank.

Just life getting the better of me, I think everyone can relate to that, said Thomas Houston who banks with Urban League.

Thomas Houston was without a job and a bank account four months ago. Today, he's a success story with the Urban League Work force program.

Houston received national certification and is financially independent.

(I) wanted a new , not just my life back, but I wanted a better life, said Houston.

Urban League President Patrick Graham says Houston is a prime example of why they decided to start their own bank last November.

The bank is geared towards the under-banked and non-banked but (what) most people don't realize is that about half the people who go to non -profit agencies, don't have bank accounts, said Dr. Patrick Graham.

Graham says this only prolongs their cycle of poverty by paying fees and interest instead of bills and saving.

When people don't have bank accounts they have to go to check cashing places or they have to use other entities that charge fees and some of them are very predatory, said Graham.

Anyone can open an account and the bank is set up with a card that will prevent overdraft.
The account is also equipped to send texts with an updated balance when purchases are made.

They deal with you on a one on one basis, it's not just walking up to a teller and you feel like a number , said Houston.

Graham says it's building up the communities in need. The Urban League has lent $1.7 million since November to smaller businesses.

To me that really is a cornerstone for your community, if you can control housing and control entrepreneurship, and business development you actually can win in a community, said Graham.

It's truly making me ready to live a better life, not just find a new direction, but actually get there, said Houston.

An estimated 700 people benefit from the Workforce Training program each year. Hundreds have opened accounts officials expect it to grow.

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