Lavonna McKoy felt like her life couldn’t get any bleaker. A year earlier she’d lost her health care job due to a work-related knee injury, and now she was homeless in Atlanta, Georgia, and barely able to walk.
“I’m at my worst point and thought, ‘Nothing can be worse than this,’” she remembered.
But, one day, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of an outreach worker from the United Way of Greater Atlanta. The worker walked up to McKoy and handed her a flyer about programs available to help homeless individuals find permanent housing. McKoy realized it was time to make a change.
That same day, the United Way of Greater Atlanta helped McKoy find temporary housing. Over the next several years she also received job placement assistance and financial education and coaching through Making Wages Work, a program offered through the nonprofit’s Financial Capability Network.
Providing ‘resources for long-term financial stability’
Economy Jackson, who manages Making Wages Work as associate director of income for United Way of Greater Atlanta, said that about 6,000 Atlanta residents are homeless due to loss of employment or income, or physical and mental health issues. And nearly 50 percent of individuals in Greater Atlanta face issues finding and keeping affordable housing.
“Making Wages Work,” Jackson said, “is designed to help people living paycheck to paycheck better manage their finances and get resources for long-term financial stability so they can become financial leaders in their homes.”
Wells Fargo has invested $500,000 in the Making Wages Work program since it began in 2012, Jackson said, and 70 team members volunteer each year as financial coaches, teaching money management skills to program participants.
To date, 1,800 people have received financial coaching — with more than 77 percent increasing income or savings, improving credit, reducing debt, or taking other steps toward financial health.
“Each participant receives six hours of financial education and at least six one-on-one coaching sessions for up to a year to help them reach a financial goal,” Jackson said. “Through community outreach and connecting with community partner agencies, we help identify people who are ready to make a change in their lives to improve their financial future.”
‘Regardless of how you fall, you can always get back up’
This February, McKoy completed her seven-year journey from homelessness to homeownership — a triumph celebrated in a new Wells Fargo video ad. Her story is one of four appearing on Facebook, Twitter, Apple News, and other websites, and it also will be featured on wellsfargo.com and Wells Fargo ATMs nationwide.
“I encourage people to keep believing, to keep hoping, to keep striving — because it can happen,” said McKoy of her recovery. She now serves as an outreach worker for CamCal (Change a Moment, Change a Life) — a United Way partner agency that helps families in Clayton County, Georgia, find housing.
“Regardless of how you fall, you can always get back up,” she said. “Going from homelessness to a homeowner was a great feeling.”
Spotlighting individuals who strive to be better
Along with McKoy’s story, the four documentary-style videos, running this August through October, feature:
- Military veteran Kienya Rudolph, of Detroit, who lost his home, rebuilt his credit and savings, and became a homeowner again through Detroit HomeLift.
- Jared Blalock, a laid-off coal miner in Williamson, West Virginia, who received education and training from the Coalfield Development Corporation and found a new job in construction.
- Otto, an 8-year-old boy paralyzed from the waist down who now enjoys skateboarding through SkateMD, a nonprofit founded by Wells Fargo team member Melanie Tillotson in Sacramento, California.
“People not only want to know how we’re making things right with our customers after the sales practices issues,” said Wells Fargo Chief Marketing Officer Jamie Moldafsky, “but also how we’re ‘Building Better Every Day’ through our philanthropy and volunteerism in our communities.
“Each of these new stories shows the grit and determination of remarkable people, their desire to be better, where that took them, and those who lent them a hand along the way in their journeys,” she said.