It’s the little things that make Lauren happy.
Coming home. Having a checking and savings account. Spending time with her kids.
While it sounds like everyday actions to most people, Lauren takes none of it for granted.
Today, she, her two children and dog live in the comfort of their very own apartment in a safe neighborhood, but the road to finding financial and family stability was not easy.
After a long list of narcotics arrests and a methamphetamine habit, Lauren was arrested for possession of drugs and her daughter was taken into foster care. Motivated to make a change so she wouldn’t lose her daughter for the rest of her life, Lauren threw away the drugs and checked herself into rehab.
It was here that her life began to change for the better.
She found employment at a temp agency, but there was one important goal she wished to check off to build a stronger foundation for her future and for her family:
Lauren wanted to achieve financial stability and independence.
In 2016, she enrolled in Orange County United Way’s SparkPoint OC program, an initiative helping individuals and families access free support and resources to get back on track and stabilize their finances.
For nearly three years, Lauren met with her case manager on a monthly basis for free financial coaching. Together, they tackled her financial goals and set forth on a path to escape financial hardship and attain self-sufficiency. They discussed topics Lauren had not explored earlier in her adult life, from setting a monthly budget and credit score status, to savings, debt and housing.
It was an education.
When Lauren joined the program, she had been living in a transitional shelter, working part-time at a temp agency and earning $10 an hour. She didn’t have a bank account and she didn’t have a credit score. Through her monthly financial coaching meetings, she and her SparkPoint OC case manager reviewed her credit report and learned that she had a judgment for an eviction she had not paid.
Together, they discussed how her current part-time job wasn’t going to help her reach her financial goals as quickly as they wanted. Her case manager thought of how to help her earn a living wage. Lauren decided to go back to school and she obtained her Drug and Alcohol counseling certificate.
While completing her certification, she interned at local centers, doing so well in her role that she was promoted to her current job as office manager at a nonprofit drug and alcohol clinic in Anaheim. In her position, she was able to help others walking down a similar past to the one she had turned away from. She was able to encourage others and show them through personal experience that there is hope to recovery and starting fresh.
With her increased pay, Lauren made it a goal to pay off her outstanding accounts so she could start building a satisfactory credit score. Once her credit score improved, she knew she would be able to start looking for her own apartment.
The day she opened her first credit card, SparkPoint OC informed her that the city of Anaheim was accepting applications for a new local housing complex. Given only two-day notice about the application, Lauren rushed in on the final day and filled out the application alongside her SparkPoint OC case manager.
A few weeks later, Lauren learned exciting news for the first time in years – she was approved for her own apartment.
With the assistance of SparkPoint OC, Lauren accomplished a string of incredible achievements. She paid off her $3,000 eviction notice, opened and actively uses a checking and savings account, found a full-time job, and increased her credit score to above 650.
SparkPoint OC transformed Lauren’s day-to-day living.
Orange County United Way has collaborated with multiple agencies to make SparkPoint OC a life-changing resource for Lauren and hundreds of others in Orange County. The comprehensive approach to financial stability has implemented lasting change for Lauren and her family. As she told the Orange County Register, “It took me a long time to get it right, but I finally got it.”
All photos by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG.
Orange County United Way is helping families on the path to becoming financially independent by focusing on the most important tools to build financial stability—good paying jobs through training; financial literacy and education; and free tax preparation services—to get hard working people more cash back. SparkPoint OC is just one of the programs Orange County United Way has launched to support its FACE 2024 goal of reducing the percentage of financially unstable families by 25% by 2024.
Orange County United Way is Solving Problems in the Community
United Way fights for the education, health, housing and financial stability of every person in Orange County. We are doing more than raising funds, we are transforming our community. If you are looking for ways to help, learn how to get involved or sign up for our monthly newsletter.