A big smile lights up on the face of Christine Baldwin when she walks through her new four-bedroom home.
"Before my daughters had to share one room. And with a sixteen and an eleven year old things get a little testy."
Up until March of this year, the Baldwins rented a small apartment in Southwest Houston. The family of five had to squeeze into two bedrooms and a living-room. The neighborhood was so bad, they often heard gunshots at night. The Baldwins dreamed of moving to a better neighborhood but Christine and her husband don’t make a lot of money and never thought that would happen. All that changed when a co-worker suggested she take a homebuyer class.
“It was all day Saturday. It was a lot of information that I didn’t catch, but they mentioned Covenant Community and a phone number.”
Covenant Community Capital is part of the THRIVE initiative. Its specialty is financial counseling and no-interest loans for families like the Baldwins. With the help of that agency, Christine was able to buy her first home within seven months and live reasonably well on less than $30,000 a year — with a family of five.
“Although my income has remained the same for the last three years, I feel like I have more money now, and that is all because the United Way really changed my way of thinking on how to spend. I would pick up something and I would say, 'you know what, is this worth my house?'”
Anna Babin, President of United Way of Greater Houston, says THRIVE has three goals: increase income, build savings and acquire assets, such as a house or a college degree. To achieve the best results, United Way has teamed up with 18 other nonprofits, each with different specialties to assist low-income families.
"We are dealing with families that have low income and so we are helping them to increase their capacity to get a job with a higher wage. We are helping them repair credit, if they need that. I think what is critical is we have offered last year, in twenty different neighborhoods tax centers, the opportunity for them to get their income tax prepared at no cost. "
Stephan Fairfield is with Covenant Community Capital, the agency that has been counseling the Baldwins. He says, since joining the THRIVE initiative, it has been easier to help families because each participating agency can focus on different things.
“It’s exciting to be a part of a new initiative where we can help our families achieve greater success through the network than we were able to do on our own.”
The Baldwins now have the biggest house in the family. Thanks to the United Way Christine says she’s learned to save and not always buy name brands.
Christine: “Where do we go in Austin to buy our shoes?”
Shania & Kristianna: “We go to Walmart!”
“How much do we pay for our shoes?”
“Five dollar shoes.”
For the Baldwins, being home for the holidays has taken on a whole new meaning.
Reported by Florian Martin. Edited and voiced by Bill Stamps.