Friday, December 9, 2011

New and Simpler Credit Card Agreement

When is the last time you took a look at your credit card agreement? Have you ever actually read through your agreement, word for word? I haven’t, and I’m guessing you haven’t either. The reason we avoid muddling through our credit card agreement is because it is too dense and too difficult for most consumers to understand.

The Winston- Salem Journal has reported on a new and simpler credit card agreement that is being tested. A prototype of a simpler agreement was released Wednesday by The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The current average length for a credit card agreement is 5,000 words, packed with fine print and legalese. In contrast, the new prototype agreement is 1,000 words and organized into three key sections- costs, changes, and additional information. It is written in plain English in hopes of making it easier for consumers to understand a card’s costs and terms.

The form will be tested over the first half of 2012 with credit card applicants at the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. Some applicants will receive the existing version of the card agreement and some will receive the prototype, so that the agency can compare feedback. In addition to testing the credit card agreement, the agency is testing simplified forms for mortgages.

You can also provide feedback, after reviewing the form here. Would this form make it easier for you to understand your credit card agreement? Let us know what you think!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Shrinking Middle Class

Over the last few years, you have probably heard talk of the “shrinking middle class.”  Sabrina Tavernise from The New York Times  recently reported on a study conducted by Stanford University that takes a closer look at the rising income inequality in America. The study found that the portion of Americans living in middle income neighborhoods has declined significantly since the 1970’s.

Over the past four decades the map of prosperity in America has changed quite drastically, with larger patches of affluence and poverty and a shrinking middle. The study covered 1970 through 2007. In 2007, 44% of families lived in neighborhoods that were defined as middle income which is down from 65% in 1970. At the same time, the study found that in 2007 one third of Americans were living in poverty or affluence, compared to just 15% in 1970.

The shift involves more than just income. There is also increased residential sorting by income, with the wealthy flocking to the new exurbs and gentrified pockets in which lower and middle income families cannot afford to live. Our neighboring city, Greensboro, NC, experienced one of the largest increases in income segregation over the past decade.

Sean Rearden, author of the study, argues that these shifts have far reaching implications. Children raised in mostly poor neighborhoods have less access to high-quality schools, child care, and preschool. It also means that the prosperous have less interaction with people from other income groups, which jeopardizes the likelihood that they will support projects- such as parks, schools, and public transportation- that benefit the public good. There is also a growing gap in standardized test scores of rich and poor students and a growing gap in rates of college completion.

The full study can be found here.

At a time of growing concern over income inequality, this study raises a few questions. For example, does increased income inequality impede social mobility? What implications does income segregation have on schools and quality of education? Does increased income segregation matter? Should we do anything about it? Let us know what you think!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Veteran Gets New Home Through IDA Program

In case you haven’t already seen it, be sure to check out this great story that aired last night about New Century IDA! It is a great reminder of how New Century can change people’s lives and empower them to accomplish things they never dreamed possible.

Randy Myers is a Desert Storm veteran who experienced homelessness but was determined to make a better life for himself. Randy got a job at the VA and eventually learned about New Century IDA. He graduated from the program in September, closed on his home last week, and is in the process of moving in! Watch this video to see Randy moving into his new home and to share in the excitement! Congratulations, Randy!


Friday, October 21, 2011

The First State to Pass an Anti- Predatory Lending Bill

This is the third post in a series on the poverty industry and Gary Rivlin's book Broke USA.

As Martin Eakes and Self-Help began fighting predatory lending, they met many others who were passionate about reining in subprime lenders and protecting the working poor. Broke USA describes how Self-Help formed a coalition with other organizations to pass an anti-predatory lending bill for North Carolina.

Peter Skillern is an activist from Durham, NC and the executive director of the Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina, or CRA-NC. He was particularly anxious to get involved because he was aware of a lender who was very close to home, NationsBank in Charlotte. He said NationsBank had a “parallel banking system.” If you were white, middle class, and had good credit, you were taken through one system. If you were lower income and had imperfect credit, you were led to either NationsCredit or EquiCredit, one of their two subprime subsidiaries.

Bill Brennan, an attorney from the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, became another major ally. He had been fighting subprime lending since 1991 and had testified before Congress and the Fed multiple times. Brennan was able to broadcast several human interest pieces on the Atlanta local news and Primetime Live that featured hard working people who had lost nearly everything to subprime lenders. Brennan sent tapes of all of these broadcasts to Martin Eakes who was determined to show them to all 120 members of the North Carolina state assembly.

Mike Calhoun, who works for Self-Help, drafted the legislation with an aim to impose limits on what a subprime lender could charge its customers. The bill was sponsored by Roy Cooper, the senate majority leader at the time and the current state attorney general. Lobbyists weighed in and discouraged senators from co-sponsoring the bill, leaving Cooper as the sole sponsor. Cooper explained that, “North Carolina is the second largest banking state in the country, so the banking industry is a significant engine here. They had a significant influence over the legislature and government process.”

The political fight over this bill lasted for more than a year. Modifications were made, but the legislation banned prepayment penalties on any mortgage less than $150,000 and made it illegal to roll the cost of credit insurance into the loan. While lenders could still charge interest rates above rates given to prime customers, anyone signing a deal that would have them pay interest rates more than ten percentage points higher than a Treasury bill would be required to meet with a credit counselor.

The bill was signed into law July 1999 and was hailed by consumer advocates as a significant breakthrough. Soon, activists from New Jersey, Chicago, and Dayton were calling, eager to pass a similar bill.

What do you think of this legislation? Did the modifications weaken it too much, or was the state overreaching by passing this bill? Let us know what you think!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Leading Up to the Big Fight

This is the second post in a series on the poverty industry and Gary Rivlin's book Broke USA.

The state of North Carolina has led the fight against the poverty industry, thanks to Martin Eakes, the founder of the Center for Responsible Lending. When Eakes began his career by starting Self- Help in the 1980’s, he never imagined it would take him to the forefront of the fight against the poverty industry. In Broke USA, Gary Rivlin provides commentary on how Eakes was motivated to help the working poor create wealth.

While serving the working poor throughout the mid 1980’s, Eakes discovered that the average white family had a net worth of $44,000 while the average black family had a net worth of under $4,000. The real issue was equity, which proved the importance of owning a home. Self- Help was able to help these families purchase homes valued between $30,000 and $50,000 by providing them with a loan almost as favorable as their prime counterparts. Borrowers from Self-Help paid an interest rate about a percentage point higher than the going conventional rate and a fixed 1 percent in fees and points. Eakes found that this was more than enough to compensate for the additional risk of lending to families of moderate income.

Self- Help was so busy serving the working poor that it wasn’t until Freddie Rogers walked into their office in 1998 that they realized industry how much the industry had changed. Rogers owned a home but was talked into refinancing by a company called Associates when he needed money to repair a drainage problem in his basement. Under his new loan with Associates, Rogers was paying 13.7% interest and now owed $47,500 when he had previously owed much less. Self- Help quickly realized that Freddie Rogers’ case was not an isolated incident; there were many more cases just like his.

After much internal debate about whether Self-Help should fight Associates, they decided they had no choice because of its sheer size. While Self-Help only had half a dozen store fronts across North Carolina, Associates had eighty. Associates also had Terry Bradshaw pitching its loans on TV, and they were generating nearly $1 billion a year in profits. Self-Help decided that if they didn’t address predatory lending, they would not really be achieving anything by putting people in homes. Self-Help, who had always been focused on helping families build wealth, decided it was equally important to help families protect their wealth as well. To do this, North Carolina needed to become the first state to pass an anti-predatory lending bill in the country.

Do you think Self-Help was right to fight Associates or did they overstep their boundaries? Let us know what you think, then check back to learn how the fight developed!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Poverty Industry

This is the first post in a blog series providing commentary on Gary Rivlin's book Broke USA and the poverty industry.

You may not realize it, but the poverty industry is all around you. The business of making money off of the poor has always existed, but it didn’t become a multi- billion dollar industry until the 1980’s. I recently read Broke USA by Gary Rivlin which provides a commentary on how the poverty industry turned the working poor into big business.

The poverty industry consists of check cashers, payday lenders, pawnshops, rent-to-own furniture and appliance stores, and other businesses that make money off the impoverished and working poor. The industry is very profitable. In 2008, payday lenders charged their customers a collective $7 billion in fees and the country’s rent-to-own shops took in about $7 billion in revenue. The same year, pawnbrokers booked about $4 billion in revenue and check cashers $3 billion. Add businesses like auto title lenders and tax preparers that offer instant tax refunds, and the total adds up to $25 billion. That is a staggering figure.

Most of these businesses make money by charging exorbitant interest rates on the loans they provide to the working poor. For example, payday lenders and title loan shops are known to charge close to 400%. Other lenders charge excessive fees for mortgage refinancing and home equity loans. Rivlin tells the story of Lillie Mae Starr, a retired factory worker who borrowed $5,000 to fix her windows. Ms. Starr was paying 23.3 percent interest, and fell behind in her payments. After refinancing twice, she owed Fleet Finance $63,000.

The most angering part of the poverty industry is its predatory nature. Gail Kubiniec ran a CitiFinancial branch that was engaged in predatory lending, and she claimed to boost revenues by packing loans with unnecessary insurance policies. She said, “The more gullible a consumer appeared, the more coverage I would try to include in the loan.” She defined a gullible customer as someone who was very young or old, a minority, or someone who appeared uneducated and inarticulate. The industry preys off vulnerable people that are trapped in poverty.

The poverty industry is typically concentrated in certain neighborhoods and shopping centers. For example, a pawn shop will be next to a rent-to-own store which will be next to a payday lender which will be next to a tax preparer that offers instant refunds. See the pictures below to see how this is true in Forsyth County.

The Rent-A-Center is in the same shopping center as the Professional Tax Service that offers fast cash.

The Quick Cash Pawn Shop is across the street from the Rent-A-Center.

While the poverty industry is still extremely profitable, more people have taken notice of its predatory and abusive nature. What do you think about the poverty industry? Is it in your neighborhood? Have we done too much to rein it in or not enough? Let us know what you think, then check back to learn what steps North Carolina has taken!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fair Housing

Last Friday, I attended a seminar on “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: What is Required” which was presented by the North Carolina Fair Housing Project. The session was very informative, and I thought you might be interested to learn more about fair housing as well!

The Fair Housing Act was passed in April of 1968. It was in passed in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in response to housing segregation based on race. It prohibits discrimination in housing based on the 7 “protected classes” which are:

  • race
  • color
  • national origin
  • religion
  • gender
  • familial status
  • disability

Under the Fair Housing Act, no one can refuse to rent or sell housing, refuse to negotiate for housing, make housing unavailable, or deny a dwelling based on any of the protected classes. It also prohibits falsely denying that housing is available or trying to persuade a homeowner to sell or rent to a particular type of person. The ultimate goal of the Fair Housing Act is to end segregation, primarily based on racial and national origin.

The Fair Housing Act challenges HUD to do more than just refrain from discrimination. HUD must also “assist in ending discrimination and segregation,” and it is required to administer programs in a manner that “affirmatively” furthers the policies of the Fair Housing Act. Local programs that receive money from HUD must meet these same standards.

Legal Aid of North Carolina is working to protect the residents of North Carolina by promoting fair housing with the North Carolina Fair Housing Project. If you live in the state of North Carolina and you believe your fair housing rights have been violated, contact HUD’s regional office in Atlanta at 404-331-5140 or 1-800-440-8091.

Check back soon to learn more about what Forsyth County is doing to affirmatively further fair housing, particularly in regard to those with disabilities. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Do People Live Where They Live?

Have you ever thought about why you decided to live where you do? Some people live in the same general area their entire life and probably never give much thought to this question. Some might move around more frequently to new locations that are dictated by jobs. And others might have more freedom to choose the location where they live. Whatever your circumstances are, there were probably a variety of factors that played into your decision to live in a particular home in a particular neighborhood.

Money Crashers recently published an article “Where Should I Live? 14 Important Factors When Deciding the Best Place to Live” which analyzes the most important factors in choosing a home. It analyzes the following fourteen factors:

  1. Affordability
  2. Taxes
  3. Employment Opportunities
  4. Real Estate Value
  5. Crime Rates and Statistics
  6. Proximity to Family and Friends
  7. Climate
  8. Education System
  9. Culture
  10. Commute Time and Public Transportation Options
  11. Food Options
  12. Town or City Size
  13. Healthcare Facilities
  14. Proximity to an Airport

Depending on the stage in your life, the importance of these factors could fluctuate over time. For example, employment opportunities might be the most important factor for a recent college graduate, while the education system might be most important for a young family, and the healthcare facilities might be most important for a retired couple.

Andriana Bicanin, the former AmeriCorps VISTA at the Forsyth County Department of Housing, did a survey of homeowners that had participated in the New Century IDA program. One of the questions she was interested in answering was “Why did you choose to purchase this home?” Of all the homes in Forsyth County, how did you choose to purchase this particular home, in this particular neighborhood?

Andriana’s survey listed 12 reasons for purchasing a certain home. Participants were asked to rank up to 5 reasons why they purchased their home. The survey found that among IDA graduates, the three most common reasons for choosing a particular home were proximity to work, proximity to retail, and the quality of the school district. 20% of participants ranked “proximity to work” as the top reason for purchasing their home, and 20% ranked “proximity to retail” as the top reason. 15% of participants ranked the school district as the top reason for purchasing their home. Other popular factors included proximity to work, proximity to supermarkets, proximity to public transportation, and proximity to parks.

By looking at both Money Crashers’ list of important factors and Andriana’s survey results, it is obvious that convenience is very important. People want a home that is convenient to the places that they travel the most frequently, such as work, grocery stores, school, and family and friends. It is likely that this will only increase in importance as gas prices rise and transportation costs increase.

While convenience is a major factor in a choice of a home, there are so many other factors in play, some of which you may not even be aware. Let us know how you chose your home, then stay tune for more discussion on housing and its connections with other aspects of our community!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Congratulations, Wave 28!!

Last night Wave 28 graduated from the New Century IDA program. It was an exciting evening for the graduates, their family and friends, and all of the sponsors and success coaches who were involved with these clients over the last year.

Graduating from New Century is quite an achievement. Each graduate completed 24 hours of financial literacy training, which includes topics such as budgeting, wise use of credit, reducing debt, preparing for homeownership, and investing for the future. Each participant also learned to transition from a lifestyle pattern of consumption to one of saving. They learned to budget and save money by opening an Individual Development Account, which they have been contributing to for the past year. Adopting a new behavior is difficult, and it required a commitment from each graduate.

Throughout the celebration last night, graduates also received some words of wisdom. Success Coach Bianca Green reminded the graduates that they will still face challenges. However, Ms. Green said, “You can only hold yourself accountable.” She said each graduate must stay true to their goals and aspirations, and “stay in the lane” on the way to homeownership. She also reminded graduates to love themselves. She said you must love yourself enough to make the decisions that will help you achieve the goal of homeownership, and you must love yourself enough not to let anyone cause you to lose focus.

It was a great night and a great celebration honoring Wave 28 and all of their hard work over the past year. As graduates of New Century IDA they are prepared for homeownership, and we look forward to seeing how their journey to homeownership progresses in the coming months. Check our Facebook page for more pictures of Wave 28’s graduation!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Individual Development Accounts: Program or Product?

In recent years there has been discussion about presenting Individual Development Accounts as a product rather than a program. IDA programs offer a unique opportunity for moderate to low income Americans to begin building their assets. Some leaders in the IDA movement have argued that a new model is needed in order to reach a broader base of asset- poor Americans. They have proposed a private sector account project that would be similar to a 401 (K) or an expanded IRA and would be managed through the financial services industry.

A study conducted by the National Economic Development and Law Center explains why some have argued that it is necessary to transition IDAs to a standardized financial product. The assumption is that over the long run, a standardized financial product would reduce per unit costs, and increase efficiency which would allow more low- income people to benefit from IDAs. They argue that the current program  based model is too expensive and resource intensive to be offered to millions of people and that it is not a profit maker for financial institutions.

Some large IDA sites have already begun standardizing some programmatic components and procedures. For example, they have used technology to standardize curricula for financial education and asset- specific education, online applications, data collection and management, training tools, and outreach. Some leaders are arguing for even greater standardization.

Despite the benefits that standardization could provide, there is concern about how this will affect IDA clients. A standardized web based financial education curriculum might meet the needs of the “average” IDA client but not specific needs of other users.  There is also a concern that this would exclude some populations in favor of less- labor intensive and more cost- efficient segments of the population.

Over the years, New Century IDA has maintained its “high touch/ hands on” approach. New Century attributes much of its success to this approach, realizing that it allows them to have a much deeper impact on participants. For example, a “high touch” program is able to change behavior, provide lifelong budgeting skills, and help clients become “banked” for the first time. These are high quality services that are difficult to measure but have a significant impact on the lives of clients.

Dan Kornelis, Executive Director of the Forsyth County Department of Housing, argues that the depth of service is more important than the number of people served. By investing more in each individual client, New Century is able to have a more lasting impact. Although high touch programs may not directly serve as many people as standardized programs, the reach is still broad. For example, if New Century is able to change the life of a single mother by helping her become more financially stable and purchase a home, then New Century has touched the lives of her children as well. The children benefit from growing up in their own home, and they also have a role model from which to learn budgeting and money management.

There is also the concern of whether or not low income Americans would access standardized programs. Financial products such as 401 (K)s and IRAs are already available to them. Since they are not accessing these products in large numbers now, it is unlikely that they would utilize a standardized IDA product. According to a 2008 report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, participation rates in a 401 (K) type plan increase with income. The study found that among workers with family incomes less than $10,000, only 7.4% participated in 2005. That is compared to 45.2% of workers from families with incomes of $75,000 or more.

It would also be more difficult to complete a financial literacy curriculum online. Not all potential clients have access to the internet. Furthermore, the element of accountability is lost. With a high touch program, clients have coaches and build relationships with people that support and encourage them throughout the entire process. This element of a high touch program is essential for long term success, and it is lost with standardization.

The value of a high touch program is evident in the great success New Century has had since 1999. The program has helped 440 families purchase homes, and 98% of these families still live in these homes. This impressive success rate can be attributed to the relationships New Century builds with its clients and the support system it provides. As New Century continues to utilize this “high touch/ hands on” approach, we look forward to helping many more families become first time homebuyers!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Individual Development Accounts: Find Out What They Really Are!

If you have never heard of Individual Development Accounts it can be hard to grasp exactly what they are. But they are an innovative approach to breaking the cycle of poverty, and they are essential to the work of the New Century IDA program.

Individual Development Accounts are part of a nationwide movement that was fueled by research done by Dr. Michael Sherraden.  His extensive research concluded that with guidance and support, people living in poverty will save money. Dr. Sherraden has said, “You can’t spend your way out of poverty, but you can save your way out.” This is a model of empowering those with moderate to low income through asset building. Across the country, Individual Development Accounts are used to help people put money into matched savings accounts for higher education, small business start up, and first time home buying.

New Century IDA helps each participant in the program open Individual Development Accounts and save money that will be used to become a first time homeowner. Here comes the good part. After successful completion of the program, which includes attending classes and meeting with a success coach, each participants’ savings are matched either 2:1 or 4:1. What a great incentive to partner with New Century IDA and begin working towards your dream of becoming a homeowner!

The New Century IDA program promotes economic self-reliance and has been referred to as “hope in concrete form.” It is not just a quick fix. It truly helps the people of Forsyth County break the cycle of poverty. Click here for an application and to join the New Century IDA community today!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Assets and Financial Security

Do you know what assets are? It turns out they are essential for financial security. The report “A Prosperity Grid for North Carolina: Connecting Households and Communities to Economic Prosperity” released by the North Carolina Assets Alliance is helpful for understanding what assets are and the significant impact they have on our families and communities. The report defines assets as resources that generate a financial return. A savings account, college education, a home, retirement savings, or a small business are all examples of assets. Having assets helps families survive tough financial times, plan for the future, and pass on resources to the next generation.

The impact of having assets extends beyond income. They are also important for achieving important economic, educational, health and developmental incomes. They are linked to social  well-being and civic engagement, health and psychological well-being and child well-being. For example, children raised in households with assets are less likely to drop out of high school and have higher educational expectations. Assets are also related to lower mortality and better health outcomes such as increased childhood immunization and improved nutritional status. Children raised in households with assets are more likely to reach key cognitive development outcomes,  maintain improved physical health, and reach key social-emotional development milestones such as having higher self-esteem.

The North Carolina Assets Alliance estimates that 22.5% of households in the United States and 17.5% of households in North Carolina are living in asset poverty, which is “a measure of whether a household can support itself with savings or available assets at the Federal Poverty Level for three months if earned income was lost.” This is of real concern because households living in asset poverty are especially vulnerable to economic downturns and are at a higher risk for losing their middle class status once reaching it.

The New Century IDA has long realized the importance of assets. As stated on our website, the purpose of the New Century IDA program is “to promote personal, economic and financial self-sufficiency by the creation of wealth through asset building, reducing debt, promoting savings, improving credit and development of economic literacy skills.” Through guidance, education, and asset building, New Century IDA helps people in our community break the cycle of poverty and sets them up for success. The financial literacy skills gained through this program are invaluable. If you are trying to break the cycle of poverty in your family or community, partner with New Century IDA today!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Adventures

As fall is rapidly approaching, many of us are preparing to start new adventures. This week marks the beginning of something new for me, as I begin my year of service as an Americorps VISTA at the Forsyth County Department of Housing, primarily working with the New Century IDA program. As a 2009 graduate of Wake Forest University, I am happy to return to Winston- Salem where I can enjoy ACC sports (Go Deacs!) and good southern cooking. My puppy Lola is adjusting to life in Winston- Salem and is anxious to explore Pilot Mountain and other walking trails in the area.

The New Century IDA program in Forsyth County is one of the most successful in the country. Since 1999, over 440 people have successfully completed the program by becoming homeowners. Owning a home is a goal for many Americans, but the process can be tricky and intimidating. The New Century IDA program empowers people to reach the goal of home ownership by offering financial literacy classes and matched savings accounts. As a young adult living on a tight budget, I can appreciate how valuable this extra guidance can be!

The Department of Housing is fortunate to have many partners throughout Forsyth County who share a vision of asset building and of making home ownership a reality for people in our community. These partners help make the New Century IDA program such a success. I look forward to meeting all of you in the upcoming weeks and collaborating this year! I am also excited about getting to know clients of the New Century IDA program as I hear your stories and learn how we can serve you better.

It is exciting to join a program that provides such a valuable service to the community. I look forward to working with all of you this year, as we strive to insure the continued success of the New Century IDA program and reach out to new communities. This is going to be a great year!

Rachel Bates
AmeriCorps VISTA

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

IDA Success Stories: Rocio

We did it!!!!

My name is Rocio, I’m a single mother, and I have a 12 year old daughter named Alyssa. This is our success story:

I was tired of living in apartments, paying rent to people and never seeing any good results out of that scenario. My dream was always to own my own home, but to me it was “only a dream”.

I wanted my own home, but being a single mother and not making a lot of money, I never thought I could own one. I used to go out on weekends to see open houses, just dreaming, and in my mind thought, “I will never have anything like this…How...With what money...My credit is not that great…What can I do...Who could help me...” All those questions ran through my mind, but no answers.

In May 2004, I heard about Granite Mortgage. I went to see them and they told me about Ashley Powell. Mrs. Powell gave me all the information that I needed and she also gave me hope. Ashley gave me the name of realtor Phillip Rector. In the beginning I didn’t want to call Mr. Rector because I ad a lot of bad experiences with other realtors, but one day I finally called him, and I have never regretted it since. Mr. Rector told me about the IDA program, and sent me an application. I was immediately contacted by Mrs. Bianca Green, and she guided me every step of the way. The IDA program was one of the best things that happened to me and my child.

During this time I hit a few bumps, like car problems etc., but I always had the support of Mr. Rector and Mrs. Green, and the IDA program. Every question was answered and they always encouraged me to keep going. I wanted a home. And this year, on Friday January 13th, 2006 I closed on my DREAM. I have a house; I still can’t believe it! I, Rocio, have a house with a 2 car garage and a yard my child to play in. This has been a great year! Not everything was easy and it took a long time and a lot of patience, but I finally did it.

So, please don’t give up! Because if I can do it, anybody can. I thank God everyday for giving me the courage to keep going.

May God bless each and every one of you.

Rocio and Alyssa.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Living on SNAP (Food Stamps): Conclusion.

Over 40 million people in the United States depend on SNAP in order to feed themselves. A 2009 study found that of the households using SNAP, 47% of recipients were children, 8% elderly, and 64% of adult, nonelderly recipients were women.

The amount of people on SNAP is rapidly increasing, although program funding is constantly at risk of getting cutback. These statistics do not cover the amount of people who are eligible for food assistance, but do not apply. They may not apply because of pride, they are unaware of programs that can help them, or they do not know where to go and how to apply. Because of this, there are many more uncounted Americans who go hungry every single day. Of these groups, the elderly are the least likely to apply for food assistance.

The millions of people utilizing SNAP are men, women, children, and the elderly. They have different upbringings, educational levels, are mixed in age and race. But, an alarming amount of those on food assistance are single, female heads of household and children, and the amount of elderly in need is far more because the elderly are most likely to not apply for aide. Those who use these programs the most are also the most vulnerable members of our communities.

This blog series shared the stories of three Americans who used SNAP and food stamps in order to feed themselves: a 22 year old college graduate who found herself homeless; an emancipated youth faced with harsh reality of attending school fulltime, and trying to feed herself and her fiancé on two part-time jobs; and myself, a college graduate and AmeriCorps worker, who grew up on food assistance. Although all stories are different, we share one commonality: we previously used or currently use SNAP in order to feed ourselves. Hunger takes on many faces, and the stories shared in this series are not the “typical” idea of who utilizes food assistance in order to fulfill their needs, or as Stacy said, “So I can eat more than a sack of potatoes.” When we open our hearts and eyes to trying to understand who seeks assistance, it is a step forward in finding a solution to eradicate poverty in not only those groups, but for everyone.

My story, along with my friends stories are only three of millions. All three of us are educated, young women who found ourselves in need. Now, with our stories still relatively fresh in your minds, I leave you with these questions: Who deserves to go hungry, why do they deserve it, and what is the true face of hunger; is there one? On that note, why are so many people unable to save their money, despite working several jobs?

Written by:
Andriana Bicanin
New Century IDA
2010 - 2011

IDA Success Stories: A Single Mother of 2 and the Family Caretaker Reaches for the American Dream

I am a 42-year-old single African American with two sons, ages 15 and 24. My elderly father and his sister are also in the home. Currently, I am employed with the Forsyth County School System as a Teachers Assistant. I wasn’t familiar with any program in Winston-Salem area that would work with families that needed some assistance to help them become self-reliant.

I was at home when I received a phone call from one of my friends telling me about a program that she would like for me to participate in. However, she knew that financially I would be unable to do the program in its entirety. So, she asked that I come and hear her lecture because she knew it would benefit me somehow. By hearing her lecture it helped me set financial goals, budget planning, insurance and many other things. I was so glad to have received that call. The young man who met me at the door recognized my name and introduced himself and told me to please enjoy the lecture. At that point it was very clear to us that financially it would take a miracle to be able to participate in this program and purchase a home. But, thanks be to God the young man I met earlier was able to work out a way for me to participate. I was given sound advice from a team of workers through the IDA program.

Later, my IDA worker told me about the Self-Sufficiency Program at Experiment in Self-Reliance. I was approved for enrollment and needed additional assistance with budgeting skills, assistance in acquiring information on citizenship for my sons and father who are currently in the United States on Visas, and financial assistance to stabilize my household. This program would further enhance the ability to become a homeowner and self-reliant through a series of intense case management session during my monthly visits.

Things have come together for me. My family is receiving regular medical services. I have increased my annual income and learned some basic budgeting skills. Each month I continue to work with my case planner on developing those skills, and others that will help me become economically self-sufficient. I meet with my case planner once each month, and maintain telephone contact to ensure that no additional barriers arise that would hinder my progression to self-sufficiency.

I have finished the IDA Program by building a new home from scratch; and I may add I am the first one out of the group to have a home built. Even though some may believe that it just happened, I know that God had a plan and it was just unfolding.

I am thankful to God who is first in my life for making all of this possible for my family and myself. I am so grateful for the friends that God has placed in my life to be angels and they are not even aware of that. Please continue to make these programs available to others who aren’t able to do it alone.

Just imagine five persons living in a home and only one working. To purchase this home is nothing but a miracle for my family and me. That’s why the name of my home will be The Miracle House. ESR and IDA programs provide assistance to people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to better themselves and their situations.

If I had not been given the opportunity to be a part of the ESR/IDEA/Self Sufficiency programs, I would still be renting a house that would never be mine, struggling to manage my expenses each month, and I would probably be making the same amount of money I was earning before ESR, because I didn’t have a home to call my own, thereby making me feel more motivated to keep what I worked hard to accomplish. Also, my family would still be wondering when they would become citizens of the USA. My boys are just days away from becoming citizens and my father would have the same opportunity in a very short while.

Thanks to all of you for being there in my time of need.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Living on SNAP (Food Stamps): Part Four

From the time I was 4 – 18 years old my dad worked as an apartment manager in one of the wealthiest areas in the United States. As part of my dad’s job we received a free apartment. My dad was on call 24 hours a day, worked 8 AM – 5 PM (always more), and made $1500 a month. My mom worked 2 jobs. I remember staying up late at night with my sister and waiting for her to come home from her graveyard shift. She would bend on her tired knees, my sister and I ran to her, and she tiredly scooped us in her arms, gave us kisses, and then led us to bed. The little money my parents earned, working a combined 200 hours a week, supported my dad, mom, me and my sister, along with utilities and other daily expenses. We were on the lower economic scale, and I had absolutely no clue.

There are those who grew up poor and knew they were, and there are those like myself, who had no idea. Amongst other indicators, one of the things that should have been a clue were the free lunches I received. My parents always made sure we had food in our bellies, and extravagant breakfasts and dinners. School lunch was sometimes embarrassing though. In the 2nd grade my teacher harassed me because my parents didn’t buy me a $20 punch card and I sometimes didn’t have money with me to buy lunch. On those days I had to go to the office and receive a credit. My teacher rolled her eyes and lectured me in front of the class. This was the first time the defining “P” (poor, poverty) was metaphorically embroidered onto my chest. As a child I didn’t understand why my parents didn’t just give me the $20. I begged them to give me $20 so my teacher would stop singling me out. Later, in high school, I received free and reduced lunch. Although surrounded with my peers who wore designer clothes, drove luxury cars, and went to Europe for their vacations, my homeroom teacher assured me that other students received free lunch; I had a hard time believing it. Walking through the lunch line, choosing food items that did not surpass the 5 free dollars, I grew aware of the “P” searing through my clothing and making my skin sweat. As an already self-conscious teenager I felt a spotlight on me as I inched forward the school line, approaching the piece of paper the cashier held with a list of the other poor kids.

Later in life, I chose to apply for AmeriCorps*VISTA, and in turn chose to live in poverty. Unless you have savings, or family support, an AmeriCorps member is going to need to use food assistance in order to feed themselves. The process of acquiring food assistance is sometimes confusing and emotionally draining. When I first chose to apply for food stamps I made very little money and was not allowed a second job, because of the nature of my work. Here is a breakdown of my expenses:

My 2008 – 2009 Budget:

Income:                       $800

Car:                              $150
Rent:                            $525
Fuel:                             $75
Soap, shampoo,
toilet paper etc.:            $50

Total:                          $800

Perfect! Right? Not exactly. I made exactly enough to pay my bills (not even, my sister paid my cell phone bill). On months when fuel costs exceeded my budget I walked the 4 miles to work and the 4 miles from work. Western Washington is known for its rain. The air holds a lingering scent of rain, and when the gray skies don’t release its steady rainfall, it still clings to the streets. Due to this, when I wasn’t walking through rain on these journeys, my feet were soggy 100% of the time I arrived at my destination. Now, take a second look at my budget and see if you can find anything missing. Did you find it? Food is missing (as well as savings). I had absolutely no money to pay for my food expenses, and that is where SNAP and food pantries came into play.

My first year applying for food assistance wasn’t difficult. I had the other occupants of the house I rented from write a note saying that we didn’t share food (which was true), I had a note from my landlord saying how much I paid in rent, and at that time any assets you owned counted against you, so I brought paperwork concerning my car and pathetic bank account. The caseworker was extremely nice, had worked with AmeriCorps members in the past, and I received my food assistance card in the mail within a month.

I only received $60 to start out. Hungry, often, I left work during lunch in order to get nourishment from a local food pantry. This in itself is a humbling experience. A Church ran the food pantry. Each visit I signed in and waited to hear my name. I waited about 30 minutes. My name called, I sat across the worker feeling ashamed. I wanted to tell her that I worked 40+ hours a week, I’m only there because I’m paid so little but work so much and am not allowed a second job; I wanted to let her know that I’m not a drinker nor am I on drugs. I did not say any of those things, though, and silently sat across the smiling worker as she punched keys on a computer and told me to wait in the waiting room for my box of food.

I started my service year weighing roughly 150 pounds. Although the hunger pangs whenever I saw my coworkers lunches were bothersome, I showed no signs of nutrient deficiency or hunger; not for another 4 months at least. Four months into my service term my skin had a scattering of acne, my hair thinned, and I weighed a slender 140ish pounds. By the end of my service-term, in January 2009, I weighed 128 pounds. The last few months of service I received $90 a month in food assistance. No longer embarrassed, I utilized the resources in my community. I needed food and I didn’t care who knew it. At times, I went to a grocery store and received less than friendly looks, and one time the cashier insinuated that I didn’t work and then sneered at me. She literally sneered at me. Of all the nerve! But those are the types of things that sometimes happen when you are a recipient of social welfare. Look at my own mindset when I first went to a food pantry. I sat in embarrassment and wanted to tell the worker that I worked, didn’t drink, and didn’t do drugs. Why would that cross my mind? Why did I feel the need to explain and prove myself? It crossed my mind because there is a social stigma attached to receiving aide. I held some of those beliefs, and as much as I believe in supporting your neighbors, and in social welfare, in the back of my mind I held stereotypes and preconceived notions of the “type of person” who receives aide, (and cue the irony) despite having grown up receiving such aide.

When a person decides to apply for food assistance it’s a decision that’s made after all other resources are drained, and you find that you just cannot buy enough food to live. My first year of AmeriCorps service was an emotionally trying and character building year. When I was unable to adequately feed myself I sought assistance. My food allowance was $60 - $90 a month. I frequented food pantries. I had no savings. I was hungry. I needed help.

I am currently in my second year of AmeriCorps*VISTA, and in using SNAP. In my two years of use, I have encountered dirty looks and snide remarks; this past year it took three months, 10+ phone calls, two denials due to not turning in paperwork I turned in three times, and a supervisor who works for the county in order for me to cut through red tape and receive benefits before I starved. When I complained on Facebook about the run-around I received trying to acquire SNAP, a college friend commented, “That’s unfair! You’re a college graduate and work 40+ a week!” Well, the same goes for millions of other welfare recipients.

My story is slightly different, but also the same as that of the millions of people who use SNAP. Post-college, my story is different because I chose to live in poverty. I was told how much my pay was going to be. I knew that I was not allowed a second job. It’s also  the same as millions of other people because of the way I grew up. When I talk to my parents they sometimes share their regrets over not having money. My mom sometimes cries over it, and my dad still swears he will win the lottery and we’ll live on Easy Street. Our wealth is one of their greatest heartaches. I know that if they were able they would have made enough money to keep us in the middle class, not reliant on other people, with savings in the bank. I’m sure that other tired parents, individually working 80 hours a week, only able to see their families in the dead of night, in between jobs, would choose a life of self-sufficiency over assistance. I’m sure they would choose a life where they did not need to rely on food assistance; a life where their children’s stomachs are not aching, they can concentrate on their work and not the food they long for, and not have their names on a list, wearing their poverty as a badge.

Written by:
Andriana Bicanin
2010 - 2011
New Century IDA

Friday, July 29, 2011

Living on SNAP (Food Stamps): Part Three

As reported in the last blog post in this series, the average length of time a person uses food assistance is 9 months. Every state has different qualifications for receiving food assistance. In Illinois, where the woman featured in this post received her assistance, a recipient is required to work at least 20 hours a week if not in school, and if attending school, they are required to have employment through federal work study for at least an hour a week. Although, if homeless or in an emergency situation, food assistance may be expedited as deemed fit.

Still in high school, working part-time, engaged, and living with her fiancé who also had a part-time job, Stacy came across the harsh reality of paying bills and feeding two people on little income. When she received food stamps they were literally food stamps; the aide she received in 1996 was in the form of conspicuous food stamp booklets where the recipient had to tear off individual stamps that “looked like Monopoly money” and hand them to the cashier. Today, food assistance recipients receive an electronic card that appears like a normal credit card, and is used as such.

-Andriana Bicanin
2010 - 2011


I had just moved out of my grandparents life and was an emancipated youth. I was living with my then fiancé, and I had no idea how expensive it was to live on my own. The first time I got a $200 power bill I knew we were in trouble. Justin (ex-fiancé) didn't have a job yet, and I was working for just above minimum wage and was limited in the hours that I could work because I was still in high school, so I decided to apply for assistance. We got one time help with the power bill, and emergency assistance. We were fortunate in that we didn't have to pay rent because my grandparents owned the house.

My biggest problem (with food stamps) was that they only took new applications on specific days at specific times. As for the process, you couldn't make an appointment so if you did have a job (which I did) you had to take an entire day off work. At the office they hand you an application that is 10 pages long, most of the questions were asked over and over again (name, date of birth, social security number, etc.), and then you had to provide proof of ID which included Government ID, birth certificate, and social security card. We also had to provide proof of address with a bill and/or lease. We had to show proof of income with our last 3 pay stubs. Then there was an interview. The lady was very nice, and I've been told that it usually takes the better part of a month to get food stamps but we got ours in 2 weeks. We were classified as an emergency situation. From our perspective it was. They then gave us a referral to Community Action which helped us with our power bill.

Keep in mind this was 15+ years ago before Illinois started using the EBT cards (link) cards. Every month we would have to show proof of income and they would send us a booklet (or two depending on how much money we made that month) of actual food stamps. Going through the checkout was embarrassing because everyone in town knew who I was (the local dentist's daughter). It was a big production too because most cashiers made you tear out each individual stamp (which looked like monopoly money) and hand it to them rather than taking the entire booklet. As far as assistance goes it didn't stretch very far. I used them to buy non-perishable goods and part of my paycheck to buy produce, meat, etc. I was a coupon clipper too so NO ONE wanted behind me at the checkout!

Receiving food stamps meant that we had more than a sack of potatoes to eat (which I had lived off of). So there was definite improvement in my standard of living. It allowed me to get my feet under me. We were only getting assistance for about a year before I was able to make enough for us to live off of. Justin never really had a job that paid the bills (he worked 20 hours a week at a car wash for minimum wage).

While receiving assistance I worked as a dental assistant for my dad. I was able to come off assistance once I was able to work full time (after graduating high school). Number of hours worked depended on how many emergencies. I was scheduled for 35 but usually worked at least 40, usually more.

For further information on SNAP (food stamps) aide:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Living on SNAP (Food Stamps): Part Two

There are various reasons as to why a person applies for food assistance, and the help it provides in an emotionally trying moment in their lives. The next three blog articles will feature a different person and their story as to why they chose to apply for food assistance, and what they experienced as a welfare recipient. No single case or incident represents the whole, but these stories do reflect an overwhelming trend in social welfare.

The following story is about Stephanie, a resident of Illinois who paid for her food expenses through assistance. In this post, Stephanie shares her experiences as a young college graduate who found herself homeless and in need of assistance in order to feed herself.

The average length of time a recipient of food assistance stays on the program is 9 months, and in the year that Stephanie utilized SNAP (food stamps), 1,625,404 people in the state of Illinois also fed themselves through the aide of the SNAP program. Nationwide, 13% of the U.S. population received aide in the form of SNAP, in 2010; here is one of their stories. (For further information on SNAP statistics, click here).

~Andriana Bicanin
2010 - 2011

I decided to apply for food stamps because I was essentially homeless and unable to find work.

After I graduated from college in December 2009, I lived with my mother and had major difficulties finding work (this is when the recession started hitting pretty hard). My mother kicked me out of her house in April. I spent a few nights out on the street, but finally got a hold of some friends who agreed to let me sleep on their couch until I found work. At the time, I was struggling with major depression and suicidal thoughts. One of my friends got me in to see a counselor. The counselor was really encouraging and gave me lots of information to help get back on my feet, and demanded that I go apply for food stamps.

The process was pretty confusing and difficult. There wasn’t much information online, except for where to go to get the application. I went (to the Department of Social Services) and waited in line for 30 minutes to get the application and then found out that I had to travel 20 minutes away to another town in the county to actually apply for food stamps. The application was quite lengthy and confusing. When I went to the facility to turn in my application, I had to wait for another 30 minutes until my name was called. An older gentleman was my case worker and very kind. He walked me through the process and since I was essentially homeless with no income, he issued me a card right away (which became active at 3 AM the next day – and yes, I stayed up to go grocery shopping as soon as it was active).

Food stamps did improve my standard of living, mainly because before I had them I was going days without a decent meal… but it didn’t mean I was buying tons of groceries and cooking lavish meals. I still had to watch my budget and clip coupons.

After about a month of getting food stamps, I found a part-time retail job and they reduced my food stamp benefits greatly. I was working 20-30 hours per week. Luckily, minimum wage and the food stamp benefits I was receiving were just enough to get by. The other bills I was paying were rent, electricity, and water.

I remained on food stamps for about 6 months total. I’m really grateful that programs like this do exist; otherwise I’m not sure if I would’ve gotten back on my feet. It’s been over 2 years since my mother kicked me out and for the last year I’ve now got a stable/salaried job with benefits.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Living on SNAP (Food Stamps): Part One

The news barrages us with headlines about how politicians are trying to cut spending. One of the government programs that has come under scrutiny is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously known as Food Stamps). SNAP provides temporary assistance to individuals and families in need of food assistance. Whenever I watch and read the news I can’t help but wonder who exactly is affected by these cuts, as well as how necessary and efficient the programs are.

I have heard many misconceptions from those around me regarding ideas of those who receive SNAP and the ease at which someone is able to obtain these benefits. This blog post series seeks to delve into a very small portion of those who currently receive or received SNAP in the past, and dispel many misconceptions and preconceived notions. By exploring these stories, and those affected, we are able to understand the purpose, benefits, drawbacks, and experiences of those who rely on this in order to feed themselves and their families.

As of May 27th, 2011, 44,587,328 Americans received aid from SNAP. In North Carolina, 1,561,887 people receive SNAP. This is a 17% increase from March 2010, where 1,327,754 individuals and families received assistance. Without this aid, those who rely on SNAP may not be able to pay for other expenses, such as medication, utilities, and childcare.

My Background:

As an AmeriCorps*VISTA I am paid $820 a month and am not allowed to receive secondary income (hold another job). VISTA service is for one year, and we serve at nonprofits and faith based organizations. We are paid so little because the purpose of VISTA is to end poverty on a community level, and in doing so we should understand how people live in the communities we serve.

I am currently in my second year of VISTA service, having concluded a year in Washington (state) in 2009, and am about to conclude my second year, in North Carolina. I first applied for SNAP in Washington. I chose to apply because I was unable to pay my rent, car payments (I was required to have a car for my type of service), fuel, and food costs with the little income I received. At first, I received $60 a month in assistance, and by the end of my service term I received $90 a month. Unable to adequately feed myself on this amount, I also frequented the local food pantry for staples such as bread, eggs, cereal, and canned foods.

Exploration into the Lives of those Affected:

There are those in this country who receive less pay than I, have children to feed, and are struggling to pay their expenses while also feeding themselves. This series will hopefully give a glimpse into these peoples lives and how exactly SNAP helps those in our communities. The next article in this series consists of interviews with those who currently use food assistance, and have used food assistance in the past.

Written by:
Andriana Bicanin
2010 - 2011
New Century IDA

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

IDA Success Story: Cheryl Ross, "A Wonderful Life is What You Make."

A wonderful life is whatever you make it. I grew up in public housing and lived on a low-income status all of my life. One Sunday morning I read a newspaper article about a woman with the same circumstances. I read about how the IDA program helped her to become a homeowner, and she said how happy and thankful she was to be able to become a homeowner. I filled out an application not feeling confident that it would work for me. I met some good people with the same circumstances as myself. I never felt lost or confused because a coach was just a call away. I have always been looking for something better for me and my three daughters. My oldest daughter is a college student at North Carolina State University, and the nine and fourteen year olds are looking forward to also attending college.

Upon acceptance into the IDA Program I found the economic literacy classes very helpful in getting me organized and preparing a budget. The instructors were very personal and helpful, and the coaches kept encouraging me. I am now a very proud homeowner with a three bedroom home with two full baths, cathedral ceilings, a deck, three acres for a backyard, walk in closets, gas logs, central air, and a two car garage. I will never have to move again because I have found what I have always wanted. My advice to everyone in the program or considering the program is don’t start looking for houses too early. However, watch your budget and cut out things you don’t need. Also try to save more than one thousand dollars for you will want to buy some things for your house when you move in. Please be patient, and use every resource that is available to you. Ask questions, this is your future. A wonderful life is what you make of it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

IDA Success Stories: Ms.T

Ms. T, a mother of three, was already enrolled in the IDA program when disaster struck. One afternoon she received a call that a fire had destroyed her apartment and all her belongings. To her get her family back in order, Ms. T was enrolled in the Self-Sufficiency Program through the Experiment in Self-Reliance. This program could assist with payment of utilities so she could focus on using her earned income for her IDA payment and rent. Ms. T was moved to another apartment and continued to work. Although the Self-Sufficiency Program was there to support her, Ms. T insisted on providing for her family with her own income.

Soon after her move, Ms. T lost her employment. Undaunted, she continued to search for an alternative. She was able to find employment cleaning homes, making just under $200 per month. Despite this hardship, she kept a positive attitude and continued to make her IDA deposit monthly. Ms. T was determined to find better employment, and applied for several jobs. After a number of interviews, she was offered and accepted a position with Bell South. With her increased income she was able to save above the $1,000 required by the IDA program.

After experiencing much heartache, Ms. T was able to achieve her dream on May 8th, 2001. On that date, Ms T closed on her first house, and is looking forward to making it a home for her and her children.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

An Interview with IDA Partner Sylvia Neely

What does the Housing Authority do for this community?

The Housing Authority of Winston-Salem’s (HAWS) mission is to create and maintain sustainable communities through partnership to benefit the residents of Winston-Salem. The vision of  HAWS is to create a self-sustaining affordable housing and real estate development organization.  The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is a subsidy assisted housing program that provides adequate, affordable, viable, quality housing, and community supportive services emphasizing self-sufficiency for low and moderate income families. 

What is your role with the organization?

My position at the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem is the Family Self-Sufficiency  (FSS) Coordinator.  My role is to coordinate resources and services for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program families through the public and private sector to enable assisted families to achieve economic self-sufficiency.  The objective of the FSS Program is to reduce the dependency of low income families that are receiving public assistance such as welfare assistance, Section 8, or any other local rent or homeownership program.
The FSS Coordinator will try to provide the resources and services that are listed in the program family’s Individual Training and Service Plans by linking them to resources, services, and economic opportunities that will lead to employment, economic self-sufficiency and homeownership.  A Program Coordinating Committee is formed by the FSS Coordinator to obtain commitments from service providers who will perform the hand-on services to the FSS participating families.  The FSS Coordinator will monitor the progress of the participant’s plan, and establish an escrow account for them once they have obtained an increase in earned income while trying to complete all other goals listed in their Individual Training and Service Plan.   It is the FSS Coordinator’s responsibility to see that the family is paid the balance in the FSS escrow account upon successfully completing their Contract of Participation. 

Why did you become a part of the IDA Program?

Since 75% of the Section 8 FSS participants have a final goal of purchasing a home through the Section 8 HCV program or purchase homes on their own without Section 8 subsidy, HAWS has partnered with the New Century Individual Development Accounts Program to assistant in providing pre-post homeownership training, financial economics, and down payment assistance to our participants.  I highly recommend this program, even though it is optional for them to enroll in the IDA program.

How have you personally seen this program benefit people and the community?

I have personally seen the IDA Program benefit people and the community by providing a match of $3,000 or $2,000 to the client’s $1,000 saved out of pocket. It is required that the IDA clients save at least $1,500 in which it allows them to have some money left in reserve since most lenders require homeownership applicants to have money left in reserve, and they are not using all of their money for down payment.   Also, it benefits the low and moderate income community in purchasing a home, since most of them have a limited amount of income, and wouldn’t qualify on their own to purchase a home since they would have to come up with at least 3% - 5% in down payment assistance. The program also benefits clients in budgeting and credit repair.  The coaches, are beneficial in keeping clients on track of becoming mortgage ready.   If it wasn’t for the IDA program there will be less homeowners in the community.
The Housing Authority of Winston-Salem’s (HAWS) mission is to create and maintain sustainable communities through partnership to benefit the residents of Winston-Salem. The vision of  HAWS is to create a self-sustaining affordable housing and real estate development organization.  The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is a subsidy assisted housing program that provides adequate, affordable, viable, quality housing, and community supportive services emphasizing self-sufficiency for low and moderate income families.