Bringing HouseAble to Local College Students

IMG_0171 When thinking about poverty, it is very easy to look at it as a singular issue. We naturally try to find simple actions to fix the problem. However, poverty is multi-faceted and sometimes requires complex and difficult approaches to create change. This is especially true in regards to the issues under-resourced college students face. For a college student who is coming out of our community, success can be hard to achieve. They will face challenges in their new environment, culturally, academically, and emotionally as they adjust to the challenges of higher education that all students face. However, as we often see, our students fight the challenge of unreliable and often unsafe housing situations. When Able Works looks at the factors in stabilizing the community, getting kids through college ranks at the top of the list. But how do we remove these barriers?

Recently, we had an amazing opportunity. A small, four-unit apartment complex became available for us to purchase. Immediately, we saw a connection between this complex and the desperate needs of local college students. We knew this project could be the resource for students we’ve been looking for!

Our vision is to create a dorm like setting that would allow students to escape any challenges that might prevent them from succeeding both academically and personally. This environment will facilitate the transition from life at home to living independently; facilitate the transition to a new school; provide the opportunity to integrate into a community of peers while learning social skills; and most importantly it will provide the quiet space and stable housing environment they so desperately need to focus on their studies and successfully complete college.

This will be a partnership with another local organization, Live In Peace, that already provides support and scholarships to local college students. They have a long history of getting students into college and helping them remain in college.

Our other partner in creating this dorm like housing is 2nd Mile. 2nd Mile is a non-profit organization that has done a lot of work in East Palo Alto and seeks to invest in communities with simple, direct, and unyielding kindness. 2nd Mile has created a great floor plan that will allow 10 students to live there.

We are so thrilled that God has provided us with this amazing resource and opportunity! Construction is set to begin in the summer and volunteer opportunities will be available for various projects. If you are interested in volunteering at a workday or have skilled knowledge of construction projects, please contact Laura at laura@able.is and she will keep you up to date of those projects.

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Meet Our Staff: Blanca Medina

This is a new feature as a part of our e-newsletter. Each month, a member of the Able Works team will let you know a little bit about themselves through a short video. We hope you take the time to watch and learn a little bit about what makes the Able Works team so great. Our first interview is with our LiveAble Program Manager, Blanca Medina.

Mentors Needed!

Are you interested in becoming a mentor? We have various opportunities for you to build a relationship with an individual who is seeking to better their lives with hope for a brighter future. Our mentors will be mentoring individuals in both our FutureProfits program and our LiveAble:Women cohort. The time commitment for both is 6 months to a year with various time commitments throughout the weeks. Please contact Jenni, at jenni@able.is for more information or to set up a mentor training for you to become a mentor.

First Cohort, LiveAble:Women to Launch Early March

The 18-30 year old age range is the most underserved population in the community. Many organizations are youth-focused and once students reach the age of 18, their program opportunities diminish and as a result, they are often forgotten. Within this age group there are various subgroups with various needs: high school graduates, first generation college students, young single moms, previously incarcerated individuals…the list could go on and on. Our hope is that in building a cohort around each subgroup, we can meet their needs more effectively while building support around them.

liveable women photo

The first cohort we will be launching is LiveAble:Women. We plan to launch an additional three cohorts later this year.

Many young moms in our community find themselves financially stuck and without the resources necessary to escape their hardships. It is our hope that through LiveAble:Women, they will be able to receive support in thriving financially, gaining a foothold in the community, and cultivating success for their children.
Our plan is to collaborate with other organizations serving young moms in the community to ensure that all their needs are being met. We will launch the cohort mid-March, and have an informational meeting planned for potential cohort members the last week in February.

Introducing the NEW LiveAble:Cohorts Program

We are proud and excited to announce a new program that joins the concepts of FutureProfits with those of our LiveAble program which provides credit, foreclosure, and homeownership counseling. We hope to be able to change lives by building on the great work we do in FutureProfits through our curriculum, classes, and relational volunteers. By pairing the FutureProfits concepts with our current LiveAble counseling program, we will be able to serve young adults facing critical decisions about their future lives and finances. 
 
The new LiveAble:Cohorts program focuses on 18-30 year olds, equipping them with resources and assets to move from merely surviving to thriving and helping them make life choices that enable them to climb out of economic survival mode. This program is set up in a cohort model for peers to move forward together in a healthy environment while having group accountability and mentorship. 
 
Each cohort will last for a year, with anywhere from 10-20 members in each. The cohort will meet weekly as a group providing a time to connect, build community, and encourage one another to make great choices. Additionally, mentorship will be offered to each individual. Each cohort will be formed around interest groups to better serve the needs of the cohort members and to work towards the same goal with a unified purpose. For example our first group will be focused on young moms and is called LiveAble:Women.
 
All cohorts will support members as they expand assets via matched saving accounts, credit building/rebuilding, emergency savings accounts, and personal resource development. The cohort will help participants be successful, accountable, and educated in their finances, academics and vocation – working to both correct and avoid financial mistakes that might affect their ability to succeed.

Fighting Homelessness.

Our LiveAble program provides counseling for first-time homebuyers, individuals seeking to rebuild their credit, and current homeowners facing foreclosure and homelessness. Our LiveAble team does this through workshops, participating in resource fairs for those facing foreclosure, and meeting with clients individually to provide one on one support.

Seeing desperate homeowners in our office each day and hearing them tell their stories outside my office makes it easy to see the good our team is doing. However, it isn’t always as easy for me to understand what our team actually does to save these homes. In the month I’ve been working here, I’ve realized my heart has fully grasped the emotions and heartache of this but my brain hasn’t fully understood the process leading up to it.

Recently, I spent some time with our housing counselors to try to better understand the foreclosure process and where they enter to help save homes. I realized, “Gosh, everyone should have the opportunity to know this.”

This is what they said:

At Able Works, the clients we serve are applying for a loan modification as a result of being in danger of losing their homes and sometimes facing homelessness. (Modifying their loan allows them to more successfully make the payments.)

After our housing counselors submit a full financial package (which can be a very tedious and detail specific process), the client’s lender will review the information and send it to the underwriter. At this point, the underwriter decides whether or not the client is approved to move forward with a modification. If the modification is approved, the lender will typically send the homeowner a trial payment plan lasting three months. During this time the homeowner is responsible for making all payments on time. Once the payment plan is over, the file will return to the underwriter and the modification will likely be finalized – allowing our client, the homeowner, to remain in their home.

Due to the bureaucratic and confusing nature of the banking system, the loan modification process is one that can take up to several months, sometimes even over a year. During this time, our counselors are providing as much emotional support as they are financial counseling to these families.

It is amazing to me that these counselors can be working with clients for a long time and the subject matter is certainly not easy to handle. They are fighting for these homes alongside the homeowners and providing hope without judgment. I get emotional just writing about this and our team does it every single day.

I hope, like me, you were able to gain some perspective on the foreclosure process as well as understand the great work our LiveAble team is doing on a daily basis. They are truly saving families from homelessness and the emotional impact that causes.

–Laura Gross

I hear you.

I hear you.
 
You are not alone.
 
Let me encourage you.
 
These are three statements that I heard spoken to one man yesterday and regularly hear from our staff members.
 
That these were some of the first words spoken to him after expressing his frustration, reminded me how proud I am to be at Able Works, with our hard working and compassionate staff.
 
Oftentimes the community members we serve are indeed frustrated, upset, and often feel hopeless. Frankly, most of them are justified in feeling this way having been taken advantage of numerous times by banks or refinancing scams. Whenever they interact with individuals, our staff is able to reach out and connect on a level that is deeper than just looking over their paperwork. They connect on a heart level and really live out our mission of equipping people with financial education, life skills, assets, and enabling them to live free from oppression and poverty.
 
Working at a non-profit, it’s not often easy to see the fruit of your labor. Yet sometimes, the fruit isn’t necessarily all that matters. Sometimes a home can’t be saved, or a financial situation not readily fixed, but this isn’t our only metric for success. What’s most important, as the result is to let these people be heard and encourage them when encouragement can’t be found anywhere else.
 
What would it look like to view the problems of those around me not as an opportunity to achieve some result, but realize that by simply listening, I have an opportunity to really connect and speak life and encouragement into others?