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Running Readers: Anahi’s Story

March 24th, 2015

Anahi_photoFor Anahi, second grade was a struggle. At home, her parents could only speak Spanish with her, and her English reading skills were at a preschool level. Anahi was falling through the cracks and falling behind.

Anahi stopped turning in homework or participating in class. She was being disruptive and distracting to other students, which was not normal behavior for her; she was a good kid. Simple math problems and counting were difficult for her, and her disruptiveness continued at home, when she grew frustrated and refused to complete her homework. This is when her parents reached out to the Community Building Coordinator (CBC), Alison, at their onsite CHW community learning center at Poway Villas Apartments.

At first, Anahi was reluctant to participate in learning center programs. She did not want to be forced into going, but her family wanted to get her help. In that first week, she threw fits and cried, but within two weeks, she began attending on her own. Alison began working one-on-one with Anahi and she soon joined the Running Readers program.

When Anahi first came to the learning center, she could read sight words or words under a picture, but beyond that, Anahi could not read. With Alison’s help and the Running Readers program, Anahi has not only moved to level two books for 1st-3rd graders, but has become enthusiastic about reading, bringing in books that she wants to read. Although she still struggles with some reading comprehension, Anahi is almost caught up to her grade level.

Since getting the support she needed, Anahi has also stopped acting out in class. She has been able to participate and understand her homework. When Alison asked her to tell her what she did in school today, she said, “I raised my hand and I read and I got it all right!”

Third grade reading level is a major predictor of future success and at CHW we aim to provide the programs that allow students like Anahi the opportunities to get back on track. Alison says, “She’s really blossoming. I can’t wait to see all of her progress at the end of the school year.”

Learn more about our Running Readers program and learn about how you can help more kids like Anahi be successful.

5 Secrets for First-time Homebuyers

February 12th, 2015

Girl_couchBuying your first home can seem like a daunting task, but we have a few secrets that may help demystify the process. 

1. Meet with a housing counselor or take a class. 

Identify a non-profit organization that provides housing counselors who can give you unbiased and objective advice regarding the homebuying process in your area. CHW provides homebuyer coaching to help you figure out how much you can afford and your next steps. In addition, taking a CHW homebuyer class will help you learn the A-Z’s of homebuying and be prepared for all the steps in the process.

2. Straighten out your finances.
Know your credit before talking to a lender and searching for homes. You are allowed one free credit report per year from each of the three main credit report companies. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com for this free report. If you see any inaccuracies, fix them. Overall, it is a good idea to understand what a lender is looking for when they qualify you for a mortgage. Keep the 4 C’s of credit in mind:

  • Credit history (Are you paying your bills on time?)
  • Capital (Do you have regular income and money saved for a down payment?)
  • Capacity (How does your income compare to the amount of debt you have?)
  • Collateral (Is the condition and value of the house you want to buy equal to or greater than the amount of the loan?)

3. Learn more about down-payment and closing-cost programs.
Some non-profit organizations (CHW included!) as well as some state and city governments offer help with down-payment and closing costs – often a major hurdle for first-time homebuyers. Usually this assistance comes in the form of a grant or a low-interest or forgivable loan. Borrowers must meet certain income qualifications to receive these loans. Use this tool to see what kinds of programs you may qualify for.

4. Get pre-approved then shop for a home.
Going about it in the reverse order may leave you feeling frustrated and disappointed. Start looking for homes only after you know how much money you will have to be able to purchase a home. A pre-approval letter from a lender gives you your maximum purchase price, which may limit the area, size and type of home you are able to purchase.

5. Find the right home.
Do your research to find the right neighborhood and home for your lifestyle. Consider schools, your commute, crime, property taxes and other factors that are important to you. Try Neighborhood Scout’s search tool to search by address or city to see neighborhood characteristics such as median area real estate prices, school rating information, crime rates, and more. If schools are important to you, another great tool comes from Homefair.com, where you can access school reports from public and private schools in your area of interest.

 

Source: http://keystomyhome.org/ready/7secrets/index.asp

Finding Your Motivation

February 11th, 2015

MotivationDo you have a goal you’ve been trying to achieve for a long time, but you just haven’t been able to make it happen? One of the greatest challenges to meeting our goals is finding the motivation to stick with it. Motivation is what makes you want to do something—that driving force that keeps you going toward your goal. 

Read these 5 tips to help you find your motivation to reach the goal that you’ve set.

1. Get started.

It seems obvious, but many times the most difficult part about reaching your goal is just getting started. Maybe you’ve been thinking about saving up for a house or going back to school. Just remember that it doesn’t matter if your first step is perfect. As long as you get started, you’ll eventually see the benefits and will be more motivated to continue.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

2. Visualize achieving your goal

Picture what your life will look like once you’ve reached your goal. What will change? For example, if you want to buy a home, picture yourself and/or family getting the keys and moving in. It can be helpful to create a visual reminder of your goal to help you stay on track, whether it’s posting your goals on the refrigerator or making a vision board, think about how you can keep the goal on your mind.

“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.” – Ralph Marston

3. Stay positive

Think about a goal you’ve accomplished in the past. Perhaps you saved up to buy something you really wanted or studied hard to pass a test. Whether big or small, you reached this goal. If you’ve done it before, you can do it again! Think about the benefits you will find when you reach your goal rather than concentrating on the challenges it will take to get there. Remember that the positive changes you are making today will set you up for a successful future.

“Success doesn’t happen overnight. Keep you eye on the prize and don’t look back.” – Erin Andrews

4. Commit publicly.

Tell your friends, family and/or coworkers about the goal you’re trying to reach and hold yourself accountable. Make sure you have this support system around you to provide extra encouragement as you work towards your goal.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

5. Treat yourself!

Sometimes rewards can provide great motivation. Start by breaking down your goal into achievable tasks and think about a reward for crossing tasks off your list. It could be as simple as the excitement of telling a friend about your accomplishment to treating yourself to something you enjoy. See what works for you!

“Step by step and the thing is done.” – Charles Atlas

For more ideas and help achieving your financial goals, consider taking our Financial Fitness class. Learn more

Proud Mom, Proud Homeowner

February 10th, 2015

Victoria_story_1_edit

“Home is my favorite place…It’s a place to build your roots and come together as a family.”   - Victoria Valenzuela, First-time Homebuyer

A single mom with three small children, Victoria Valenzuela was faced with a critical housing situation. She was staying at her brother’s apartment with only one bed for her family of four to share. Victoria was highly motivated to find a new home and set out to do something about it.

In Spring 2013, Ms. Valenzuela was introduced to Community HousingWorks’ (CHW’s) asset-building programs. She began by attending a Financial Fitness class where she learned how to save money and where to go for financial help. During the class, Victoria explored her goals and created an action plan for achieving her dream of buying a home.

Victoria explains, “I always had a hope, and it was really more like a dream, of owning a home. But I am a person that is persistent, that works and fights for what I want. I said to myself, I am going to try. I ended up working with CHW to know what I needed to do to purchase my home and to keep fighting.”

After taking the Financial Fitness class, Ms. Valenzuela realized that her homeownership goal was attainable. During the class, she created an action plan that would help her reach her goal and received the tools she could use to get her there. Shortly after the class, Victoria spoke with a CHW financial coach about her next steps. Her coach recommended CHW’s Homebuyer Class, where Victoria learned the steps she needed to take to purchase a home. She found out that she would need to save $15,000 to afford her first home.

Victoria_house_3_editedWith the motivation that she could achieve her homeownership dream, Victoria began saving as much as she could to reach her goal. As a maintenance manager for a housing organization, Victoria maximized her income by cutting out any extra expenses and managing her money wisely using some ideas she learned in the Financial Fitness class. She also saved her large tax return and was able to save on rent costs each month. Just nine months later and with $15,000 in the bank for a down payment, Victoria met with a housing coach for a pre-purchase session. Discovering some minor errors on her credit report, Victoria worked with her coach to write letters to the bureaus and creditors to have them resolved. One month later, the errors were corrected and she was ready to get pre-approved for a home loan!

In Spring 2014, Ms. Valenzuela worked with the CHW Lending and Realty teams to obtain an affordable mortgage and find the right home for her family. She and her family moved into a beautiful, single-family home located near a family-friendly park in Logan Heights. Victoria says, “When I received the keys to my house I felt a lot of emotion in my heart. It was a kind of joy that almost made me cry. It seemed like a dream come true. I said, thank you God, finally you have helped us purchase our own home.”

Youth Achievers Bring Comfort to the Homeless

January 16th, 2015

MatsRecycling for a Cause

When site coordinator Alison first saw the need for recycling the spare plastic bags in her CHW community, she took it as an opportunity to teach; the teens from the community took it as an opportunity to give back.

Alison, a coordinator at our Poway apartment communities, wanted to show the residents of the CHW community how they could help lessen their environmental impact. She created a loom that is now used to make sleeping mats out of old plastic bags. While the residents were taught about reuse and re-purposing, the teen Achievers from the CHW Learning Center requested that the mats be donated to the homeless population living on the streets.

Achievers are members of a program that provides opportunities for youth leadership development, volunteerism and community-centered projects. There is an application process to join the Achiever program and those in the program spend the year developing an action plan for issues in their community that they would like to address. Like this mat project, they often take on smaller projects they believe would positively influence their community.

Now, each month, Alison hosts an up-cycling event where the residents can come together and create mats for those in need. The mats require 500 grocery bags to make and a lot of time, so it’s a great excuse for the community members to gather, and every generation can participate. Since its inception a few months ago, word about this unique program has spread, and now two CHW communities are trying their share of re-purposing to help others.

Learn more the Achievers program…

New 3% Down Payment Loan from Fannie Mae

January 14th, 2015

home_signLower Down Payments Help More Families Afford Homeownership

Have you been thinking about buying a home but you just can’t seem to save up the 20% down payment that many conventional loans require? You’re not alone! Many first-time buyers do not have large amounts of cash to spend on a down payment even though they have a stable job with good income.

Now, first-time buyers anxious for homeownership have a new option. Fannie Mae has recently announced a new loan product that only requires 3% down. For a home costing $350,000, that is still a $10,500 down payment, but this amount is far more manageable than the $70,000 down payment that would be needed if 20% down were required on that same home! According to the Federal Reserve, 45% of renters delayed buying a home because they could not afford the down payment. A lower down payment requirement would allow for more buyers to purchase their first home.

These loans, like most others, require buyers to be eligible based on verified income, debt and credit scores, among other factors. Additionally, at least one of the co-borrowers must be a first-time homebuyer. The loan product will also require private mortgage insurance, which is paid monthly with the mortgage until the buyers have paid down 20% of their loan.

Fannie Mae sees this new loan product as “a responsible option for qualified borrowers.” It allows creditworthy borrowers to access credit and receive a loan while interest rates are still at historically low levels (the U.S average mortgage rate on a 30-year fixed loan is just under 4% at the moment). Though Fannie Mae doesn’t think this will fix all the problems surrounding access to credit that currently exist, it is one step in the right direction!

2015 is looking like a great year to buy a home for other reasons as well. After home prices grew at a fairly rapid pace in both 2012 and 2013, prices have been a bit steadier, rising at a much slower pace in 2014 and this trend is expected to continue into 2015. In addition to steadier home prices, renting is getting more expensive and the vacancy rate is at an all-time low in many areas of the country. As rents increase, the cost of homeownership begins to be less expensive than renting and a better investment of your money.

To get started towards buying a home, review our 5 steps to homeownership or take a Homebuyer Class.

Financial Coaching: Changing a Legacy

January 12th, 2015

Tatum_family

This New Year’s Eve, the Tatum family made goals together, motivated to start the new year on the right foot. Instead of making the usual New Year’s resolutions, they made tangible goals together as a family to work towards becoming debt-free and purchasing a home in 2017.

After difficulty making rent payments last year, Alonzo and Tomika connected to the Virtual Counselor Network to get their finances back on track. With a family of six, the VCN made it easier for Alonzo and Tomika to connect with a financial coach, from right at home using online video chat technology.

With the support of a CHW financial coach, the Tatums began changing the way they were saving and spending their money. Alonzo says, “What’s changed the most is really our mindset, being conscious of our budget and accountable to our coach.” Alonzo and Tomika were able to pay their past due in the same month and promptly joined the Financial Health Club afterwards.

The Tatums meet with their coach, Jesse, on a consistent monthly basis to check in on progress towards their goals. Tomika says, “It has motivated us and prepared us to be accountable every month.” At their last session, the family checked in on accomplishments and challenges for the month and discussed ways to reduce spending. They made a plan to create a Vision Board with their family to ensure they are all committed to their savings goals.

AlonzoSince working with a coach, Alonzo and Tomika have made significant strides toward their goals. They are now keeping a monthly budget and working together to find ways to reduce their spending. They’ve started repairing their credit using some letters their coach recommended to send to fix errors on their report.

Coaching has also impacted their family in positive ways. The Tatums have recognized a difference in their family’s attitudes towards money.

“We believe this is going to change our family’s legacy. We’ve involved our kids so that they can avoid the same pitfalls in their lives. Now they have vengeance against debt!” says Alonzo.

“I am really impressed with their motivation and truly believe that they will reach their stated goal, which is to become debt-free and purchase a home by 2017,” explains Jesse, financial coach.

The Tatum family plans to continue working with their financial coach throughout 2015, meeting on a monthly basis and regularly checking in on their progress. In order to reach their goals of becoming debt-free and purchasing a home, they have committed to repairing their credit and increasing their savings. In two months, they will have paid off their payday loan debt, allowing for a surplus in their budget and a chance to increase their savings. Before their next coaching session, they’ve committed to writing and sending letters to creditors in order to improve their credit. They have also signed up for the Financial Fitness class and plan to attend a Homebuyer Class later this year. In addition, in order to increase their monthly savings, they have planned to enroll in SDGE’s Level Pay program.

By strengthening their monthly budget, increasing their savings and improving their credit, the Tatum family will be in the best position possible when they go to apply for a home loan in the near future.

Learn more about the Virtual Counselor Network

Give the Gift of Learning

November 25th, 2014

#givingtuesday

Join the movement!

Community HousingWorks (CHW) is proud to be participating in #GivingTuesday, a celebration of  giving back and doing good. Coinciding with Thanksgiving and the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, #GivingTuesday inspires people to take collaborative action to improve their local communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they support, and help create a better world.

Why Give?education

This #GivingTuesday when you give to CHW, you give the gift of learning to over 1,500 youth from low-income families across San Diego County. Your support will provide the essential resources needed for these children to succeed in school through our after-school and summer learning programs.

Give Now

 

 

Help Us Spread the Word

#GivingTuesday is about small, individual actions that collectively create a big impact. The more people who participate, the bigger the impact we’ll make. You can help by raising awareness  among your own networks. Together we can change the world!

GiveAShare_ButtonGiveATweet_Button

Our Impact

CHW provides homes where underserved individuals and families can find the stability to learn and grow. Watch this video to find out how home matters to the over 8,000 individuals we reach every year:

7 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

November 17th, 2014

Giving_back_image_27  Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

From stuffing the turkey to entertaining friends and family, it’s easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle that comes with the holidays. Spread some holiday cheer with these 7 ways to give back this season.

1. Volunteer your time. 

San Diego has many volunteer opportunities available during the season. Here’s a few ideas or go to VolunteerMatch.org to search for other opportunities.

  • Help a child improve his or her reading skills as a Running Readers coach or be a guest reader at a CHW family night. Learn more
  • Volunteer with the local food bank. Learn more at Feedingamericasd.org.
  • Volunteer to help sort toys with Toys for Tots.

2. Donate clothing, food or toys. 

Visit your local donation center or clothing drop off site to help low-income families this season. To donate food to those in need, search for your local food bank and consider volunteering at a food packing event.

  • If you have books lying around the house, donate them to CHW and help us create literacy rich environments for children and a passion for reading!
  • Visit United Way for a helpful list of organizations looking for donations this season.

3. Pay it forward

  • Next time you go through the drive thru, buy the coffee for the person behind you and make their day!
  • Offer to help a neighbor with their holiday decorations.
  • Bake your holiday favorites to share with your neighbors and friends.

4. Use your talents

  • If you love to entertain people, gather a group of friends or co-workers and offer to do a ‘show’ at a local retirement community or children’s hospital.

5. Support the troops

  • Many troops will not be able to come home for the holidays, so make their day with a caring letter. If you do not know a troop personally, check out organizations like the American Red Cross and join their letter writing campaign.

6. Shop with companies that give back

  • Do you buy online or participate in Cyber Monday? Amazon Smile will donate .5% of your qualifying purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. CHW is participating. Simply go to Smile.amazon.com and select Community HousingWorks as your organization.
  • Dedicate a gift to a loved one or friend. By donating to CHW, you can dedicate the donation for someone you know and you can choose to have a letter sent to them, letting them know you’re thinking of them!
  • Do some research for companies locally or internationally who give someone a gift from you because you purchased items with them (Tom’s, Heifer International, etc.).
  • If you have kids, drop off a letter for Santa at Macy’s or online at Macys.com/believe and for each letter, they will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million, to help grant wishes to children with life-threatening conditions.

7. Donate on “Giving Tuesday”

  • You’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. What about Giving Tuesday? On December 2nd, people around the world will come together for a global day of giving. Go to GivingTuesday.org for more information and join the movement by donating on December 2nd. 

Wishing you a happy and joyous season of giving!

Categories: Newsletters

5 Fall Savings Tips

October 21st, 2014

Fall image

Most Americans spend 30-40% more than they intended to spend during the Holidays, and spend the first six months of the New Year paying off debt. Here’s some great tips to consider from our Financial Fitness team to have a stress-free holiday season…

1. Plan ahead.

Set up a holiday savings and spending plan and stick to it! Get the Holiday Savings & Spending plan

Experts recommend trying to spending less than 1.5% of your income on the holidays*. So for example, if you make $40,000 a year, it is suggested to save about $600 for the holidays. Whether you spend more of less than this amount, deciding early how much you want to spend is always a good idea to avoid overspending and stress.

*Source: Practical Money Skills

2. Budget your time (and money).

Compare prices and give yourself enough time to shop around for the best deals. Sometimes it’s the last-minute gifts that can send us over our spending limits. Shopping early will usually help you get the best deals and give you enough time to find coupons or sales for the item. Here’s some helpful website and apps that can help you save more money:

  • Coupon Mom: CouponMom (not just for moms!) is a website that provides weekly shopping advice to you and more than 3 million members and shows you how to combine coupons, loyalty programs and weekly sales in your area to maximize your savings.
  • Retailmenot.com: Get online coupon codes that can help you get free shipping or big discounts on your next online purchase.
  • GasBuddy.com: When you’re shopping around or traveling, it’s important to find the best places to fill up in your area.  Also check out their fuel-saving tips, maps, and pricing info! Available as a mobile phone app.
  • The Coupons App (iPhone, Android)
  • CouponSherpa (iPhone, Android)
  • GeoQpons (iPhone, Android, Blackberry)

3. Get creative.

Consider a gift exchange with family and friends or a potluck to share on costs. You can even try making your own gifts this year. Pinterest is full of great homemade, DIY gift tutorials. Check out our Pinterest page for a few ideas!

4. Pay in full or pay it off.

The holidays are a time of giving and it can be very easy to overspend. Use your Savings & Spending plan to decide what you can afford to spend and try to pay it in full or in “cash” whenever possible. If using your credit card during the holidays, try to pay the credit bill in full or you may be dealing with debt in the new year.

5. Stick to the plan.

Think about your financial goals – are you hoping to one day buy your first home or are you trying to save for college? Don’t let unexpected costs creep up and hinder your savings goals. Remember that it’s really the time you share with family and friends during the holidays that means the most – not the gifts or parties.

Interested in learning more savings and financial tips? Consider taking CHW’s Financial Fitness class. Or if you’re ready to take the next step toward your financial goals, learn more about our coaching program.