Phoenix, AZ,
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It’s Never too Late to Dream

Everybody has dreams they wish to see come true. Soon it becomes clear it’s more than wishing, it takes a lot of work and discipline. Then life happens and dreams are diverted. However, with key information, training, hard work, and people who care about giving back, circumstances can change and dreams can become a reality.

Most people don’t grow up dreaming to be homeless at age 20; never renting an apartment their entire adult life and living on the streets. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) it is a stark reality many people face every day.

“Everyone expected me to be dead by now,” says Marcos Torres, a 46-year-old professional landscaper. A doctor predicted Marcos would be dead by 30 because he had been drinking since he was 14 years old and was a full-blown alcoholic by 20.

After being convicted of a felony at 14, drugs and alcohol consumed his life. “I started drinking at parties and it just spiraled out of control. I didn’t know how to stop,” Marcos says.

The drug and alcohol abuse began taking its toll on Marcos’ life. Marcos had a dream to join the military, but convicted felons aren’t accepted. His alcohol and drug abuse, felony conviction, and joblessness eventually led to him being homeless.

He started experiencing health issues and found himself $20,000 in medical debt. The odds of survival were stacking against him. He was deep in a hole, one in which too many people find themselves.

Being homeless is still more common than we think.

There are many causes for youth being homeless. NAEH points to family conflict, divorce, neglect, and abuse as the primary reasons. A large majority of young people experience short-term homelessness then return to family or friends. This wasn’t the case with Marcos. He didn’t know where to turn for help.

The turning point

“Then I was introduce to Pastor Manuel and he is the person who helped me,” says Marcos. “I knew of God, but didn’t know God,”

Pastor Manuel talked with Marcos about getting financially stable and shared Trellis’ financial literacy and first homebuyer’s education program information with him.

“God uses people to help you, and Pastor Manuel is that person for me,” says Marcos. Pastor Manuel helped Marcos find a job with a landscaping company, set goals to stabilize his life and make plans for his future.

With Pastor Manuel’s support, Marcos started confronting his alcoholism and drug abuse head on and started preparing himself to enter Trellis’ programs. Trellis helps those who don’t know where to start, get their financial lives back on track. They provide education and planning workshops covering first-time homeownership, foreclosure intervention and prevention counseling, and financial coaching.

Marcos worked hard to change his life. Before he knew it, he was enjoying his first paid vacation and attending out-of-state conferences. “Marcos was very disciplined from the start,” says Brenda Lopez, Trellis Coordinator of Financial Initiatives. “By the time Marcos entered Trellis’ program, he had cleaned up his act and was sober.”

Getting ahead

Another vital step Marcos needed to keep him off the streets was understanding how to manage his finances. He was introduced to a board game Trellis uses to identify what a person’s dominant behavior is around money.

“The game asks clients questions to determine if they are spenders, givers or savers,” says Patricia Garcia Duarte, Trellis President and CEO. “This helps us and our clients better understand why they spend money the way they do.”

Without ever having a job, Marcos didn’t have a clue what type of behavior he had with money other than spending it on drugs and alcohol. He went from being a spender to being a saver, putting $200-$300 a month in Trellis’ matching saving account program or an Individual Development Account (IDA). IDAs help clients save $5,000 to reach their financial goals.

One of Marcos’ goals is to be a homeowner. He is on track to have $5,000 saved by year’s end for a down payment on a home. Trellis’ credit education courses have helped Torres’ establish credit and see his score go from zero to more than 650, putting him on track to fulfil his homeownership dreams.

Marcos has now experienced his first paid vacation, attended an out-of-state professional landscaping convention, and is looking forward to purchasing his first home for himself and his family. He has taken the necessary steps to make all of his dreams come true and proving it’s never too late to turn your life around.

Visit NeighborWorks America for more information about financial education and homebuyers programs.

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