We recently met Brian on the morning of our weekly food distribution at the Fruitvale Transit Village. He was on his way to the Fruitvale BART station when he approached a staff member and asked, “you work for The Spanish Speaking Unity Council? I love them! They saved my home many years ago!”
In the midst of the 2008 recession, Concord resident Brian faced serious financial challenges and was at risk of losing the home he owned. After learning about The Unity Council and its Financial Capability program, he was determined to improve his financial health, including talking to a Financial Specialist and taking credit building classes. However, Brian did not expect he would leave the program a changed man.
Brian was intent on improving his financial standing. He visited the then Spanish Speaking Unity Council of Alameda County and was impressed by the attentiveness and friendliness of program staff that first day. After completing the intake, he was advised to enroll in financial literacy courses, offered at no cost to him. Brian was surprised and delighted that he was not turned away because of his ethnicity. “I am African-American,” said Brian. “But when I walked into the office, I was welcomed.”
Brian was also paired with a Financial Specialist who advised him to develop a budget and savings plan. As Brian and his Financial Specialist regularly met to check on his progress, the coach continued to advocate on his behalf, including writing numerous letters to his mortgage lender to provide updates on Brian’s financial standing. His coach even referred Brian to a foreclosure defense attorney to oversee his case, pro bono.
“I was dangerously close to losing my property,” said Brian. “Everyone who worked there understood my situation and they wanted to fight for me.” After two years of attending Financial Literacy classes, individualized case management, and the attorney’s help, Brian victoriously contested his case and his home was saved.
Twelve years later, Brian now works in Technology Sales for a Fortune 500 company and is a licensed realtor. In addition, he owns several rental properties in Concord, Oakland, and Cleveland, Ohio. As his way of paying it forward, half of his properties are available for those with Section 8 vouchers or those who are recipients of other affordable housing programs.
“There’s a lot of people that are in dire financial straits that are looking for a hand up, not a hand down,” said Brian. “I’ve been in their shoes and there are good people and places like The Unity Council that want to help their community.”
“If you need help, I would strongly encourage you to check out The Unity Council,” said Brian. “Without a doubt, it changed my life.”
For more than 55 years, The Unity Council has been an anchor in communities like Fruitvale, East Oakland, and the Monument Corridor and stood by the sides of its community members of color, promoting social equity and improving the quality of life of more than 8,000 clients each year. This year is no different. We are committed to equipping our most vulnerable community members with the tools to improve their quality of life by building vibrant communities where everyone can work, learn, and thrive.
By making a donation today, you will brighten this holiday season for community members like Brian who rely on our services in times of crisis. Please donate today.