Future Edge
Capital One

Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


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Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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Xavian Barnes didn't know quite what to expect when he prepared to help set a world record.

The 15-year-old recently finished his freshman year at the NAF Academy of Finance at the Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship Academy (IDEA) in Dallas. Despite his love of technology, he was a little apprehensive to learn coding and had never worked with Artificial Intelligence (AI) before he and 800 other local high school students took part in Basic TrAIning: Bot Camp, a one-day training session that Guinness World Records certified as the largest AI programming lesson.

The event, hosted by Capital One, was meant to teach students the basics of the Python coding language, get them excited about the possibility of a future in tech and give them a hands-on experience by creating a program of their own.

Xavian's apprehension quickly disappeared when he and the other students set about creating a chat bot that would respond in the same way as their favorite celebrity. His choice was NFL star Marshawn Lynch. When Xavian and his classmate got the bot to sound like the football player, it was a breakthrough moment. "We were surprised it actually worked," Xavian says. "It seems like creating it, you'd need a lot of numbers and a lot of coding. But it went way faster."

As soon as the bot was up and running, Xavian started to think about what he could do next.

"I was able to talk to my mentors at school about it," he says. Xavian's teachers were more than happy to oblige his curiosity. When he goes back to school in the fall, they'll take his newfound interest in AI and encourage him to discover all the things he can create with a foundation in computer science.

Capital One

The record-breaking event is just the beginning. Over the next three years, Capital One wants to bring Basic TrAIning to more than 10,000 students.

Through its Future Edge program, Capital One is helping teens discover not only a passion for technology, but also the foundational skills they might need for a potential career in the field.

This initiative comes to life through programs like Capital One Coders. Since 2014, more than 11,000 students have been impacted by this program, inspiring students to recognize their potential as technologists by exploring the basics of coding alongside Capital One associates.

Capital One sought to further close the digital skills gap in high-demand areas like artificial intelligence and machine learning. The Basic TrAIning program came out of conversations the company's leadership team had with its non-profit partners. Capital One uncovered a significant opportunity to provide students with training in AI and machine learning while simultaneously filling a void in the curriculum of schools they worked with. Local educational institutions often struggle to keep pace with ever-evolving tech standards and innovations. So, Capital One partnered with Major League Hacking to create a curriculum that would educate, inspire and help students demystify the world of AI.

"We did an initial study looking at some of the statistics across the nation, related to workforce and workforce training," says Monica Shortino, Director of Social Innovation at Capital One. "Part of what we found was that 8 out of 10 jobs require digital skills. For our students to be successful, they needed these digital skills. And with AI being such a growing field, our end goal is to equip these students for the jobs of tomorrow."

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Their program has already helped transform the perspective of students with their relationship to technology.

"When we piloted the program at the Boys and Girls Club, I remember one student saying, 'I don't know if this is my thing,'" Shortino said. "He was the one that ended up putting in the most hours wanting to stay late to tinker."

"That's the hope we have for all of the students coming into the program," she added. "Maybe they're a little leery in the beginning. But they're super excited by the end."

For Major League Hacking Co-founder Jon Gottfried, the importance of the program can't be overstated. A self-taught programmer who now works to empower student hackers from all backgrounds, Gottfried wants the emerging software developers of today to become the tech leaders of tomorrow. And that requires making tech accessible to all, without fear or judgment.

"Part of why we created Major League Hacking was to give more people access to those resources and create a community around it that reinforces people's love of building technology without the negative aspects of being graded on it or being in an environment that's unfamiliar," he says. "The workshops and programs that we do are designed to create a really positive space for people to learn."

It's something that Gottfried wishes he and others like him had been encouraged to learn when they were teens. "There is so much potential for technology as a path to upward mobility," he says. "And the more people and the more perspectives that are contributing to that, the better."

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The future couldn't be any brighter for Xavian and the other students that participated in Basic TrAIning: Bot Camp. Their training may have only lasted one day, but it will stay with them forever. And it'll soon be a launching pad for thousands of others like them, providing the skills necessary to see themselves as competent, confident and capable in an ever-changing digital landscape.

"I would recommend it to my friends," Xavian says, even though he didn't know if he'd like coding at first. The emphasis on doing has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for him. He's already thinking about studying AI in college. "It's an exciting experience," he says.

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