Working parents get crucial aid
A YWCA "last, best chance loan" can be the boost needed to regain independence
The YWCA Ways to Work Program believed in Anela and Dennis Vea when no one else did.
The program gave the struggling couple a loan for a deposit so they could rent an apartment.
"Everything is wonderful. It got us on our feet, and we built everything we got" from the $850 loan, said Dennis Vea, 28.
Vea was living out of his car while his wife, 23, and their two children, 5 and 2, lived at his mother's house last year. They saw a flier at a bus stop advertising the YWCA program designed to help struggling parents. Now they are living in an apartment in Makaha.
Vea, a roofer, said the YWCA's David Washburn was friendly and "got to know us personally ... and it made a big difference."
He saw "that we were hungry to change. He could see we meant what we said. We had no other way and they believed in us. They made our lives come together."
Washburn, the Y's senior manager for economic advancement programs, said the program is often a family's "last, best chance for a loan," usually to buy or repair a car that makes the pivotal difference in getting or keeping a job.
Most of the program's clients, about 80 percent, are single mothers.
The interest rate charged is "not a burden for a person trying to make ends meet," and the loan requirements are easier for "folks considered un-bankable. They can't get traditional loans at reasonable rates," which can run as high as 28 percent, whereas "ours is 8 percent," Washburn said.
"We treat customers with respect," he added. "And that improves their self-esteem, and they find that anything is possible."
The program gives people "a chance to prove themselves to others and themselves. We think they are worthy of a second, third or fourth chance."
Washburn said executives from social service agencies, banks, government and the private sector have served on the loan review committee since the program started in 2001. They try to keep the review process at less than three weeks, he said, so people can become more self-sufficient sooner and less dependent on welfare.
Major requirements to qualify for the program include having dependent children and working at least 19 hours per week for six months before applying.
Loan maximums, serviced by American Savings Bank, range from $4,000 for a used car to $850 for housing.
Other qualifications are posted online at www.YWCAoahu.org under economic advancement programs.