S.E.L.F. Helps by Jim Reddy
Sometimes, it seems all of those things that you were told could be attained through dedicated hard work appear just outside your means. Perhaps you dream of starting your own business but the required capital is just outside your grasp. Completing your education is impossible when you are living paycheck to paycheck. The thought of home ownership can seem like nothing more than a whim. What if you could get a lift? What if someone would invest in you?
Supports to Encourage Low Income Families (SELF) keep the American Dream alive through a program supported by the United Way that does just that. "We offer many services that support working families, but the I.D.A. program is pretty special" says Beth Race, Community Relations Director. She went on to explain how the program works and share a story of true success.
Qualifying individuals fall into that area where many working people are or have been. Their income exceeds the threshold for public assistance as it is traditionally viewed but leaves very little for investing in the future. The Individual Development Account (IDA) can be a tool some of these candidates can use. The program matches savings two to one when they are earmarked for a home purchase, post-secondary education, or capitalization of a business.
There are 24 current participants supported by SELF which boasts success with 10 educations, 13 homes, and 18 businesses since 2007. Overall, 47 participants have benefitted. According to the National Corporation for Enterprise Development, it is estimated that each dollar invested in IDA programs return five dollars to the national economy.
Beth added a success story that encapsulates the impact of this program:
Hamilton resident Tracey has been through four of SELF's self-sufficiency programs. She is a hard-working single parent of three. Tracey came to SELF to enroll in our jobs program; she knew about SELF because she had worked for the Liz Claiborne Warehouse and served on the local committee which voted on local grants and SELF was a grant recipient
When Tracey came to SELF she was newly separated, living in a home without electricity and she suffered a series of medical conditions and setbacks. She enrolled in our employment program, worked hard and found employment. But that was not enough for her; Tracey continued on and enrolled in SELF's Getting Ahead program to continue to improve her situation. Getting Ahead is an 18 week curriculum that assists individuals living in poverty to evaluate their lives and to develop the life skills necessary to survive and flourish. Participants learn new mental models that help them navigate the hidden rules of class and they work on developing a plan for prosperity to break the cycle of poverty.
Tracey is working to affecting change in her community and she serves on SELF's Client Advisory Committee. She attended our predatory lending event to learn more about what is happening in the community and even spoke to a representative from Senator Rob Portman's office about what she has learned from SELF's programs-both after working an all night shift.
Now Tracey is now enrolled in the IDA program that teaches clients how to save and helps them set a savings goal toward an asset that will help stabilize their financial situation. Tracey is saving to buy a home and she will buy a house by the end of the year. Due to special funding she is eligible for a 4:1 match, so she'll have $5,000 for a down payment!
When Tracey was asked to share her success story, she told us "I'm not a success story yet; I have more work to do." We know she'll be successful in this and anything else she puts her mind too-no matter the barriers that may come her way-and we can't wait to be invited to her house warming!
Further information on this and other programs offered by SELF can be found at: www.selfhelps.org.