John Squires

Founder
Nuestra Casa
Purpose Prize Fellow 2008

Providing affordable home improvement loans for working-poor homeowners

As executive director of a community development organization, John Squires has long worked to help the rural poor escape poverty. But the plight of poor Hispanics living in Third World conditions on this side of the border spurred him to action. In 2000, when he was 53, Squires set up Nuestra Casa, an innovative micro-loan program to help families living in decrepit subdivisions on the edges of towns along the Texas-Mexican border. Nearly 100,000 Hispanics live in poverty condition between Brownsville and El Paso. Many of the homes lack water and sewer service, reliable electric power, flooring, insulation, and Sheetrock. Through Nuestra Casa, which means “our home” in Spanish, Squires set out to help 40 families – for about a fourth of the cost of government contracts. If homeowners repaid their loans, he could recycle the funds to help more people. By last year, Nuestra Casa had made 1,000 loans totaling $2.9 million. The average loan is $2,685 at 9 percent interest. The programs’ repayment rate is 96 percent. Loans have financed installation of flush toilets, new roofs, and insulated walls. Squires plans to expand the loan program to include residents of the border region in New Mexico and Arizona within five years. “I spent the first half of my life learning how things really work. To spend the second half of my life not building on the experience and knowledge gained over the last 40 years to make even more of a difference is simply inconceivable.”