In August 2021, a Zomi family purchased their first home – a 5-bedroom, 3-bath house in outer SE Portland. The road to make this dream come true wasn’t easy. Working closely alongside our Catholic Charities of Oregon and Save First Financial Wellness teams, this family embarked on a 3-year-long, sometimes arduous, path that required careful and deliberate planning and that was filled with financial education, budgeting, and most importantly – saving.
The Zomi community is a predominantly Christian minority group largely from Myanmar that started resettlement in Portland around 2009 after facing continuous violence and oppression by the Burmese junta, in a predominantly Buddhist country. Because the Zomi are deliberately marginalized, they are at risk for exploitation, extreme poverty, and human trafficking in Myanmar. Even now in Portland, they face many challenges including systemic and institutionalized racism. The Zomi Catholic Church and Catholic Charities of Oregon partner to provide support to community members with the goal of ending the cycle of poverty through education, training, skill development and employment services.
The family originally participated in an outreach event hosted by Save First Financial Wellness at St Joseph the Worker Catholic Church. Save First staff, with a small group of volunteer financial coaches offered the Save First Wellness Basics class and financial coaching over several months with the help of fellow Zomi church parishioners providing interpretation.
During the coaching sessions, participants learned about debt and credit management, budgeting, and saving. The couple was matched with Daniel, a volunteer financial coach who helped them establish and track a monthly budget and recommended the IDA program. The Individual Development Account (IDA) provides matched savings where participants receive $3 for every dollar saved toward an asset like buying a first home, attending school, purchasing a vehicle, or securing an apartment.
After completing coaching in early 2019, the couple worked with Randy Lucas, Asset Building Manager and IDA Specialist with Save First to apply for their IDA. Over the next 25 months the two of them each saved $120 monthly until they reached $3,000 in June 2021. Their IDA savings were matched with $9000 and together they had $24,000 down payment.
While they saved, they also worked with a Home Ownership Counselor and completed a HUD 1st Time Homebuyers class – meeting the program requirements while acquiring essential education to help them buy their home.
When it came time to seek lending, they reached out to ChiEn Montero, a Catholic Charities board member and U.S. Bank Mortgage Loan Originator. ChiEn and Randy worked together to help the family apply and navigate the complexities of lending, underwriting and escrow.