MoneyWise brings hope to Post-Katrina Louisiana

The Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) illustrates that MoneyWi$e resources have had a positive impact on Post-Katrina Louisiana. MoneyWi$e was developed by Consumer Action in partnership with Capital One Bank.
Published: Monday, September 21, 2009

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2007, Consumer Action and Capital One used their unique partnership to help the devastated community-based organizations, nonprofits, and government agencies located in New Orleans and Shreveport. Together, the partners hosted a MoneyWi$e regional meeting in both cities and trained frontline advocates, case managers, educators, and counselors from all over the state using the MoneyWi$e curriculum. Consumer Action's Community Outreach Manager Linda J. Williams followed up those regional meetings with two train-the-trainer roundtables in Baton Rouge in the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009. According to Juanita W. Rambo, Director of Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of Ouachita, Louisiana, she has begun to see “green shoots sprouting” in post-Katrina Louisiana, which she believes to be the result of seeds sowed by Consumer Action and Capital One's ongoing efforts in the region. She shared the following stories to illustrate how MoneyWi$e resources are having a positive impact on lives of the people in Ouachita.

Ms. J* did not have good credit.

She had ruined her credit as a young woman not realizing that it would haunt her for the rest of her life if she did not improve it. She was tired of living in her low-income apartment, but she did not know how to get out of it. She tried to rent a two-bedroom apartment. When the landlord asked for her social security number, she was stunned. She thought cash would get her into the apartment.

The next day, Ms. J was told that her bad credit history prevented the landlord from renting the apartment to her. She was disgusted and frustrated, both for herself and her son. While sharing information during a MoneyWi$e workshop, Ms. J related her story and wanted to know what could be done.

Fortunately, the title of the workshop was “Repairing Bad Credit.” Ms. J was deeply interested in what could be done so that she could accomplish some of her goals, and began writing down the steps necessary to repair and rebuild her credit. After the workshop, she remained in class to get personal assistance. OIC showed her how to write letters to the landlord explaining her past credit history and her future goals to rebuild her credit.

She asked him to trust her, adding that if she missed a payment, he would have the right to not honor the lease. This agreement was signed in writing and the landlord gave her a chance.

It has been three months, and Ms. J is still working, sticking with her budget, and living in her newly acquired two-bedroom apartment. The landlord said she is an inspiration and has helped to renew his faith in people.

Ms. T* is a senior citizen who participated in the Senior Citizens’ Computer Class at OIC.

One day a man came to her home and told her that he could paint the outside of her house, replace the windows with contemporary storm windows, and add new steps for $2,500. He informed her that he was doing the work for half of what it was worth because he guessed she lived on a fixed income and he wanted to help. He said he was a good “Christian” man who just wanted to give something back in exchange for a blessing. All she needed to do was go to the bank and withdraw the $2,500 needed to buy the supplies. Ms. T was elated. As she was preparing to go to the bank and get part of her life savings, her daughter called and asked what was she doing. Unfortunately she did not tell her daughter the truth. She withdrew the money, gave it to the man, waited for him to begin work, and never saw him again. Feeling foolish, she explained what had happened to her. The workshop on “Scams Against Senior Citizens” pointed out a number of schemes that criminals use to steal money from senior citizens, especially those who live alone. During the workshop, OIC covered many of the tricks that these criminals use to trick the elderly, and Ms. T was surprised. Shortly after the MoneyWi$e workshop, she received a telephone call from a telemarketer in Florida telling her that she had won an “Orange Juice Sweepstakes,” but she had to deposit $1,000 into an account at the bank before she could claim her prize. Remembering what she had been taught, she called her daughter who quickly called the number she had been given and asked questions. She informed them that she was calling the FBI, and they hung up before she could finish the rest of her statement.

Thanks to our MoneyWi$e workshop, Ms. T was not victimized a second time. Once more, nearly all seniors in the class said they had been approached with one kind of scam or another. Now that Ms. T has educated herself on what to look for from con artists, she tries to help others who may become victims of the same schemes.

Ms. W’s* first savings account was somewhat of a surprise to her.

On welfare most of her life and finally doing odd jobs on a regular basis, Ms. W had never made enough to save. She thought having a bank account was a joke.

She came to OIC to get some job training skills with the hopes of finding a decent job. When we conducted the workshop on “Help Your Savings Grow,” she was amused. We explained that she did not need a whole lot of money to open a bank account and need not be ashamed to start with the minimum amount.

She asked how could she save money she did not have. OIC explained that when she got her income tax refund that would be the prime time to save unobligated money. We explained that she should save for emergencies and future plans. Even if she is on public assistance, she is allowed a savings account.

Her income tax refund came and was more than $400. Ms. W used $100 of the refund to open a savings account. She was so excited that she checked on her money every other day. MoneyWi$e explained that if she added $5 or $10 a month to her account the savings would grow.

By the time our MoneyWi$e workshops were completed, Ms. W had $250 in the bank. That may not seem like a lot of money to some, but for someone with very little, it is a lot. Ms. W is thinking about opening a Christmas club account because the counselor at the bank and OIC’S MoneyWi$e presenter told her it is a good idea to set aside money to prepare for the holidays. Then when Christmas comes around, she will not end up using charge cards.

*Names changed

The MoneyWi$e Financial Educational Program is being successfully implemented by grassroots organizations across the nation. The Consumer Action and Capital One Financial Services partnership will return to New Orleans on Oct. 16, 2009. For more information on MoneyWi$e Financial Education Program, please contact Linda J. Williams at (213) 624-4631 or via .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)




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