The challenges have been many for Karina Acevedo, the doting mother of a son named Chuy, who was diagnosed with autism in his early infant years.
Karina’s goal was to have an affordable place she could call home in San Francisco, her beloved city of two decades—a home where she can meet Chuy’s needs.
Family Success Coach Alba Juarez–who works to help families at Bryant Elementary School in the Mission–counseled Karina on the process of submitting applications for below-market rate (BMR) rental opportunities in the city. Karina submitted several applications, with one actually being accepted, which is no easy feat; unfortunately, Karina lost out on this unit because of having no credit history and some medical bills in collections.
Juarez then made a referral to MEDA, where Financial Capability Program Manager Jackie Marcelos stepped in, offering one-on-one coaching over the past year.
Marcelos understands the need for a good credit score, having worked with financially challenged clients for years.
“It is important to get credit scores in good shape. People may need a car loan or a personal loan,” states Marcelos. “Plus, with the increased construction in San Francisco right now, that means more below-market rate (BMR) housing units are in the pipeline than usual. Now’s the time to get your credit score in good shape.”
Marcelos’ fiscal action plan for Karina started with having the new client open a Secured Credit Card, as a way to build her credit score. Marcelos also disputed medical collections of $1, 051. It turns out Chuy is eligible for Medi-Cal, so all but $80 of the money in collections was actually owed.
Availing her client of other services that could help her family, Marcelos assisted Karina in the following: obtaining a free MUNI Youth Fast Pass for Youth; signing up for low-cost internet in the home; submitting quarterly reports to HAS; and applying for medical insurance through her employee credit union.
Once she fully understood the importance of having established credit, Karina brought her partner, Jesus Magana, to MEDA, where he also started working on his credit by opening a Secured Credit Card.
The good news is that Karina and Jesus now have FICO scores above 720 and are eagerly awaiting one BMR lottery result, plus another opportunity for affordable housing via Mercy Housing.
As part of MEDA’s service-integration model–and with Karina being a Mission Promise Neighborhood family—the mother has also been provided the support to now advocate for Chuy. Karina was helped to apply for the new school year of 2014-2015, with Chuy placed at Sanchez Elementary School for kindergarten.
Sadly, Karina immediately noticed a negative behavioral change in Chuy. He started regressing as far as language development. Also, Karina was not pleased with her son’s class structure.
Marcelos decided to speak out on Chuy’s behalf, crafting a letter to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to request a transfer to another school—a school better suited to support the youngster’s needs.
The result was that in October Chuy was transfer to Sunnyside Elementary School, as part of their Special Education program, where he is demonstrating big steps forward in his development and is now happy going to school each day.
To ensure Chuy’s future educational goals can be met, Marcelos had Karina start $100 per month, automatic payments toward a Kindergarten to College account, the first publicly funded, universal children’s college savings account program in the United States. (Kindergarten to College was created by the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment in 2010.)
Karina continues to come to MEDA so that her family succeeds, knowing that then her child will achieve. Her story showcases the service-integration model at the Plaza Adelante SparkPoint center. This is highlighted by Karina receiving an award this past Saturday as MEDA’s “SparkPoint Client of the Year,” at an event hosted by the United Way of the Bay Area-Women’s Leadership Council.
The family’s future is looking bright.