There was a time when the notion of owning her own home seemed like a mirage to Jenelle.
Even the idea of building up her credit score looked like an uphill battle, particularly when trying to sort through a series of personal challenges, including fleeing domestic violence and overcoming substance abuse. When she was first introduced to SNAP Financial Access, Jenelle was staying at Naomi (formerly Hearth Homes) in Spokane Valley with her kids. The program serves as a refuge and springboard to stability for single mothers and their children.
When SNAP Financial Counselor Jay MacPherson took his credit building workshop on the road to Naomi, Jenelle was tuned in.
“It was clear that she wanted to learn everything she could,” Jay recalls. “She was taking notes, asking questions, soaking up everything.”
Jenelle was familiar with SNAP from a previous chapter in her life. The agency once helped her secure an apartment through the Rapid Rehousing program when she was trying to get back on her feet. At Naomi, the goal of improving her financial footing emerged as Jenelle’s primary goal.
“I wanted to just better my future,” she said. “I wanted to know what the best steps were to get there. I wanted to do it for my kids.”
Those steps included Jenelle bringing in a household budget and going through counseling with Jay. She was issued a secured credit card through a credit building loan and began to ramp up her score. She paid off bills and addressed a previous loan, maintaining a positive outlook throughout the journey. While working a steady job in retail, she began taking college courses.
“Before, I didn’t really think about debt, I was just surviving,” Jenelle said. “It was important to have Jay and SNAP as resources I could turn to.”
The track record of SNAP Financial Access programs was something Jenelle could take heart in. The Decisive Credit Building program can point to success stories such as one participant whose credit score went from zero to 782 in six months.
“Many have had similar achievements,” said Jay.
“Without Jay, I wouldn’t have known where to start,” Jenelle said. “I would definitely point other people to him and these programs.”
Jay helped Jenelle go over her credit report, post red flags on anything she wanted to dispute and also make sure any positive credit activity was included. At one point, her score rose to within seven points of qualifying for an FHA home loan.
“Then we looked at what we could do to keep building that up,” Jay said.
Jenelle just recently received a land assignment from Habitat for Humanity for a home of her own. Things are also going well on the college front as she is close to earning her Associate of Arts degree in early childhood development.
Jay said he has been impressed with the progress Jenelle has made to improve not only her credit score but her overall financial literacy.
“She’s come a long way,” he said. “She gained knowledge and then acted on it. That doesn’t always happen. She just never gave up. We’re proud of her.”