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Success Story – Linda Schmidt

At her grown daughter's urging, Linda Schmidt left her abusive husband for the last time and moved into the Women's Crisis Center--Buffalo Trace in Maysville in November 2009. She had no car, no job, and her financial standing was destroyed, a casualty of the economic abuse she endured at the hands of her abuser. He had controlled all household finances - demanding that she hand over her paychecks and, unknown to Linda, failing to pay bills that were in both their names. His ongoing harassment had caused her to lose her job. Linda focused on turning her life around, and by March 2010, she was working full-time at the Eastern Kentucky Power Plant and saving in KDVA's Car Individual Development Account program. Funded by the Allstate Foundation, the Car IDA matches every dollar a survivor saves with another dollar, up to $2000. While she was saving, Linda learned budgeting and money management skills and started working on improving her credit score. She also took a class in basic car maintenance. Linda purchased a 2002 Chevy Monte Carlo, and thanks to the flexibility of having reliable transportation, she was able to move into her own apartment and began looking for opportunities to help other survivors get back on their feet. That opportunity came only two months later, when Linda began her one-year term serving as an AmeriCorps member at the Maysville domestic violence program. Now Linda teaches financial education classes and works one-on-one with survivors. She uses her own story to empower them to work toward economic self-sufficiency. KDVA created its Car IDA program to give survivors a stepping stone to its federally-funded Classic IDA program. Linda is an example of how that program is meant to work. She started saving in a Classic IDA, where her savings (up to $2000) will be matched on a 2:1 basis, and plans to purchase her own home within the next three years. To begin repairing her credit that was damaged during her marriage, Linda will be taking out a KDVA microloan, secured by her IDA savings, and her monthly payments will be reported to the credit bureaus. Because of her personal experiences and participation in these programs, the survivors she works with have a powerful role model. "I am finally living a happy, healthy, and productive life," she said. "I hope other survivors see that they can, too."

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Success Story: Shaun Owens

Today, Shaun Owens owns a comfortable three-bedroom home in Owensboro, where she lives with her 24-year-old son, Zac. Sometimes she still can't believe that she is a homeowner, a practicing RN, and the owner of a Mary Kay business. She's come a long way from the day in December 2006 when she left her abusive husband and moved into a homeless shelter in Owensboro. She was battling alcoholism so severe that she voluntarily gave up her nursing license. And she was nearly $20,000 in debt, including judgments filed by her ex-husband. In May 2008, Shaun began working with an advocate at OASIS domestic violence program and opened an Individual Development Account (IDA). She began tackling her debt, knowing that her goal of buying a home would require her to improve her credit history. She opened and repaid two KDVA microloans over two years; the zero interest loans were secured by IDA savings, and her payments were reported to the credit bureaus. "It didn't seem possible for me to pay off my debt and be ready to own a home in two years," she said. "But my advocate kept encouraging me, and I learned how to advocate for myself." Shaun negotiated lower payments to her debtors and paid off her debt. By the time she had saved the maximum $2,000 (which was matched 2:1), she had $6,000 for a down payment and her credit score was high enough to qualify for a market-rate mortgage. Shaun also applied for reinstatement of her RN license, which she received on a two-year probationary basis (she is now fully reinstated). She works as an RN at an in-patient facility for adults with behavior disorders, most of whom have also battled addiction. Today, Shaun is proud of her son, who is attending college at Owensboro Community and Technical College and is considering a career in health care - possibly even nursing - like his mother. Shaun also volunteers weekly, leading a support group for homeless women. "I try to use my experience and strength to give them hope and help them see that they can turn their lives around," she said. "It is never too late for a new beginning."

"My advocate kept encouraging me, and I learned how to advocate for myself."

 

Christa McMichael

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Christa McMichael moved to Owensboro five years ago because she didn't want her two daughters to grow up around the violence and substance abuse that was keeping her from taking charge of her life.

She moved into subsidized housing and supported her family on a meager work-study income while she studied to become a Certified Nursing Assistant at Owensboro Community & Technical College. To make ends meet, Christa charged many of her living expenses to credit cards and found herself shackled by too much debt and a low credit score.

A presentation about the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association's (KDVA) Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) by an advocate at OASIS domestic violence program helped change Christa's life. "It sounded too good to be true," she said of the program that matches low-income earners' savings at a rate of 2:1 and can be used toward education, homeownership, or small business expenses.

Christa enrolled and began the financial literacy classes and monthly one-on-one financial counseling sessions that are part of the program. She learned how to budget, saved enough each month to maximize the matching funds, and deposited the majority of her tax refunds into her IDA.

She's making sure the experience makes a difference for her two girls, Caya, 12, and Caylyn, 9. "One of the best things about this program is that my girls have learned with me and will grow up knowing how to make good financial decisions."

Christa used her savings and matching funds to complete CNA and LPN programs at the community college and got a job at a nursing facility. She opened a second IDA to save for a home in early 2009, and in less than a year had saved the maximum contribution of $2,000. Christa also worked hard to improve her credit score by more than 150 points - enough to get 4.25% interest rate on her mortgage. In October 2009, Christa and her daughters moved into their brand new three-bedroom home with a large backyard. Many families with young children live in the neighborhood, and her girls made friends quickly.

Christa continues to look toward the future and would like to start her own small business, developing and managing a small personal care home. She wants to open another IDA to cover some of those expenses. "Five years ago, I never even thought about having my own home," she said. "Now I know that anything is possible."

Sharon Hays

close-up Christa and home

Fueled by support from her friends and pastor, Sharon Hays found the courage three years ago to leave her abusive marriage. She had tried to leave several times before, but as is the case for many survivors of domestic violence, she was immobilized by the fear of being unable to provide for her two children. The last time she left, she had the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program in Lexington in her corner.

With the help of a program advocate, Sharon began taking steps to build a future. She divorced her husband and filed for bankruptcy. She found work and child care for her children -- not an easy task since many providers would not care for her son who has Asberger’s Syndrome.

Sharon also opened an Individual Development Account (IDA) and began saving for college. In May she graduated from Transylvania University with degrees in sociology and environmental science.

During that time she was laying the groundwork for another victory: her credit score. In the last two years, she increased her score by an average of 134 points, from 530 to 662. Sharon did that with the help of a $300 Allstate microloan through the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association (KDVA) in April 2009, which she finished re-paying in March 2010. KDVA created the micro loan program to give survivors an alternative to payday lenders and a way to build their credit scores. KDVA reported Sharon’s payments directly to the credit bureaus. The program was made possible with a grant from the Allstate Foundation.

So far, at least 18 survivors have increased their credit scores by 50 points or more, and three of them increased their scores by more than 100 points.

Sharon still has work to do to improve her credit score. She’s taken out another micro loan to continue increasing her score. She also plans to open a second IDA to begin saving for a home for herself and, Grace,12, and Austin,15.

By next year she should be well on her way to having a credit score that would qualify her for a market-rate mortgage.

Christy Bailey

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Five years ago Christy Bailey was addicted to methamphetamines, married to an abusive husband and homeless. Today she and her three-year-old daughter, Serenity, live in their own three-bedroom home in a quiet, tidy Owensboro neighborhood.
“Five years ago it never would have occurred to me that I could own my own home,” Christy said. The journey from meth addict to homeowner began at OASIS, a domestic violence and drug and alcohol treatment program. Christy was working two jobs – as an activities manager at a homeless shelter and as a manager at a Burger King – when a supervisor told her about the IDA program at OASIS. 
Christy began saving $20 a month. When she saw the savings pile up, she upped her deposits to $55 a month and saved as much of her tax refunds as possible. With the help of a credit coach at OASIS, she also focused on improving her credit history.mLike many IDA participants, Christy did not have a credit score. She did have delinquent medical bills left over from a serious injury caused by her batterer.
Christy used her cable, rent and utility payment records to show that she paid her bills on time for two years. Those and her stable work history convinced the bank to give her a market-rate mortgage. Less than two years after she began saving, Christy used her IDA to buy her home for $50,000.
Christy is using a second IDA to save and pay for college expenses. She?s working on a degree in social work and hopes to become a drug treatment counselor. Meanwhile, she's a regular at the monthly IDA meetings at OASIS, where she encourages other participants to take control of their finances and plan for the future.

Andrea Langefeld

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“The IDA program is a great program, but it is something that you have to work for; you have to have ambition.” -Andrea Langefeld
Andrea Langefeld thought her life was spiraling out of control when she left her abusive husband in November 2003. She and three daughters moved into the basement of her mother’s one-bedroom house. “I was on food stamps and public assistance, living in my mom’s basement with three children,” she recalled. “My goal was to not be on any assistance.”
Andrea, 31, got a job as a server at a restaurant in the Cincinnati airport and, with a Section 8 housing voucher, moved into a nearby apartment in northern Kentucky. Shortly after that her effort to become self-sufficient kicked into high gear. Andrea met Becky Mishos at the Women’s Crisis Center and opened an Individual Development Account. She attended a financial education class, and with Becky’s help, Andrea began cleaning up her credit history. She raised her credit score by 150 points. One year later, Andrea bought a home in Ludlow, Kentucky, for $85,000. She used the $6,000 in her IDA and $10,000 in down payment assistance from Kentucky Housing Corp.
Andrea says the IDA program helped her take a big step toward financial security. Her caseworker helped her take the steps she needed to be able to apply for a mortgage. Most important, she said, the program helped her focus on her dream of homeownership and empowered her to take responsibility for her financial future.

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