In 2016, Phyllis Hawkins faced insurmountable odds. She enrolled in the Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) under-employed with defaulted student loans, no savings, sub-prime credit and due to an unexpected family crisis, facing homelessness.Ms. Hawkins was forced to move from the home they shared with her late fiance’into a shelter. At the time of enrollment Ms. Hawkins main concern washer defaulted student loans. The balance, fees and collection activity were frightening and confusing for her. Additionally, she admitted to difficulty in budgeting, not knowing her credit status, and was overcome by the required weekly rent of $138.00 to the women’s shelter she resided in. We quickly calculated her housing cost at more than 50 percent of her income DTI at over 40 percent with defaulted loans, collection activity and delinquent bill obligations. Ms.Hawkins was unsure if she could continue this way and concerned about inconsistency in available hours at her place of employment. Ms. Hawkins was exhausted by these conditions beginning to cause mental strain on here very day livelihood.

Today, Ms. Hawkins has is confident in setting goals, managing her daily, weekly and monthly budget and has shown an increase in credit of over 200 points. Most notably Ms. Hawkins was awarded Section 8 through the county and was able to move into her own apartment in 2018. This resulted in a 60 percent reduction in housing expenses and increased cash flow to allow Hawkins to open a savings account committing to $50 in monthly savings. “I never knew how to handle my finances; my fiancé was responsible for that. The things I learned at the Urban League, managing my money, not waiting till the last minute to pay bills and other financial skills give me the hope I needed to keep going and get better and better,” says Hawkins.

After attending our workforce development work shops coupled with intense financial coaching, Ms. Hawkins learned how to negotiate a pay raise, protect her savings and getting the good stuff going on her credit report.She was so successful that in 18 months, she received two raises and customer written accolades on a job well done. Unfortunately, Ms. Hawkins was still working part-time and an untimely lay off could have caused are lapse in progress. However, she dug deep and with newly acquired skills was offered a full-time position increasing her income by more than 25 percent. Ms. Hawkins states, “the pay raise and I received has been life changing, I can do things like treat myself to lunch or a movie, or even go to a friend’s birthday party. It may not seem like a lot but, I can now buy myself a pair of jeans and not have to worry about ignoring a bill to do so... I am living life again,that makes me feel good about myself.”

Ms. Hawkins was apprehensive at first about sharing personal and financial details of her life, but once she felt comfortable, she and her financial coach have developed an amazing relationship of trust and commitment that has resulted in tremendous progress. Ms. Hawkins is continually learning how to navigate her new found financial freedom, one day at a time. Intwo years, Hawkins has reduced her debt obligation, built assets,rehabilitated student loans, increased credit and earned full-time employment.Ms. Hawkins has saved over $600.00, “the most I’ve ever saved in my life. ”She often boasts that if it were not for this program, she might be on the street homeless, “I’ve learned how to set goals and plan for my future.” She admits she is not where she wants to be, but she is far from where she used to be and proud what she’s accomplished so far. She continually meets monthly with the financial coach and is committed to future progress.

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