From Student Loan Debt to HomeOwnership Dreams

From Student Loan Debt to HomeOwnership Dreams

Posted on July 30, 2020

It may come as no surprise that student debt is one of the greatest financial burdens Americans face today. In California alone, residents owe approximately $131.2 billion in student loan debt.

For Elizabeth Lopez (27), a dental assistant and mother of two young girls, the weight of this burden was far too real. Student loans had consumed her entirely to the point where the IRS was withholding her tax returns.

“My living situation at the time didn’t allow me to pay down my student loans,” said Elizabeth. “I had to focus on providing for my daughter at that time, it was hard.”

Early on, Elizabeth dreamed of one day owning her own home and knew that sooner or later she would have to seek help for her situation. So back in early 2018, in an effort to get more information on homeownership opportunities, a quick internet search led her to Self-Help Enterprises where she was connected to our Gateway Program and HUD-certified Homeownership Counselor, Juantia Franco.

“Elizabeth was very involved in coaching from the start,” said Juanita. She was given an action plan and went straight to work on those items. Elizabeth has had a great deal of success with her credit and debt. She never hesitated to ask questions and communicated all changes with me.”

“I knew it was going to be difficult with my students loans but working with Juanita was a great experience,” said Elizabeth. She was very thorough in how she explained things. Every time we talked, Juantia was always very positive. She maintained that energy the whole time that I was working with her. I followed all of her guidance and little by little I began to see a difference.”

Over the course of 22 months, Elizabeth’s credit score increased from 579 to an impressive 708, an increase of 129 points. She is also now in good standing with all of her student loans and paying them down consistently.

“It’s been a great pleasure working with Elizabeth and seeing her accomplish these goals. I have no doubt that she will succeed as a homeowner in the future,” said Juanita.

Thanks to SHE’s Gateway Program, Elizabeth now looks forward to purchasing a home through SHE’s new Self-Help Homes in Goshen.

Self-Help Enterprises is a HUD certified counseling agency. Through the Gateway program, SHE offers educational and counseling services to equip potential homebuyers with the tools and resources needed to meet their financial and sustainable homeownership goals. The program helps families qualify for reduced rates or mortgage insurance with some lenders, and for USDA, CalHFA, City and County homebuyer assistance programs.

Most recently, the Gateway Program added Rental Counseling and COVID-19 Counseling.

Rental Counseling consists of exploring the household’s current, immediate and future needs, affordability, potential rental resources (low-income rental communities, rental assistance programs) and rental vs homeownership budgeting. Oftentimes, it is during these sessions that we are able to help clients determine if homeownership is an attainable goal for them or connect them with resources and/or affordable housing.

COVID-19 Counseling specifically assists clients impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Counselors work to identify the household’s immediate need, link clients to direct resources, submit applications for Pandemic Relief Funds and ensure that these families have the most current information available under the Cares Act and other local, state and federal options. In addition, Gateway staff have created and maintained an up to date resource list with information regarding unemployment, local and state benefits, supplemental food sources, rental, mortgage and creditor assistance. These sessions are available to both renters and homeowners.

For more information, please visit:

Or call our office at (559) 651-1000 to get connected with a Gateway Counselor today.

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