Health. Credit. Basic needs.  Whether or not these things are in good standing affects many aspects of our daily lives and are interconnected than you may think. Trying to find a more affordable apartment or a better mortgage rate? Need a new job, car, or even just a cell phone? It’s all about credit. When you have poor credit, even the simplest things seem impossible.

This kind of stress, coupled with the burden of making sure your family’s basic needs are met, can also lead to a host of health issues.  It is a vicious cycle that is very hard to break.

That’s why United Way works with a number of community organizations in the Seacoast area who work with clients to boost financial capability, in addition to making sure their basic needs are met.

“Many clients are so overwhelmed that they aren’t able to focus on things like budgeting and credit until they get their basic, urgent needs under control,” says Torey Kortz, Executive Director at the SHARE Fund, a United Way partner based in Rochester, NH. “We try to motivate folks and empower them to make choices so they feel like they’re making progress and can feel good about themselves,” says Kortz.

The SHARE Fund’s Choices Project, for example,  provides clients with an individual action plan and financial coaching to help meet specific goals like budgeting and increasing income.

Financial health and physical health

The value of empowering clients financially goes well beyond improving their financial health, having a direct impact on physical health as well. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 50% of health outcomes are determined by income, housing and access to social support services. This comes as no surprise to those who work with families in crisis.

“The turbulence of the life of a low income family creates tremendous stress,” says Kortz. “The anxiety of money problems has a real affect on people’s ability to work and take care of children. And the effects on children are devastating.”

In fact, studies have shown that children who are homeless are twice as likely to have developmental delays and four times more likely to develop asthma, while children in families who are behind on rent are more likely to be in poor health and hungry, contributing to below average growth and developmental delays.

There is hope

Community-based organizations that serve a client’s basic needs while integrating financial capability into their services are seeing great results.

One example comes from United Way partner agency New Generation, a shelter for pregnant women and children in Greenland, NH. There, a recently evicted mother of two with no income arrived in need of help. Not only was she jobless and homeless, but had significant credit card debt. New Generation connected her with a case manager to work with her on financial literacy and setting goals for budgeting and how to improve her income.

With this help, in less than a year, she secured a job as a school bus driver, gaining not only a source of income, but convenient mother’s hours that allowed her to cut back and save on child care. She is now financially independent, but continues to work with a financial coach to pay down debt and improve her credit score, and has begun saving money to achieve her dream of buying a home for her family.

Although the path to financial health is a long and difficult one for many, agencies like The SHARE Fund, New Generation, and other United Way partners across our community are providing the help local families need to turn things around.


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