By Kate Eberle
A company car pulls up in front of the Communitas office and a beaming, energetic 50-year-old man gets out. When he sees Jason Schlatter, the Executive Director, his face breaks into a grin. “Nice wheels, man!” Jason shakes his hand and claps him on the shoulder.
You’d never know it to look at him now, but Jim was homeless for almost a decade. A construction worker by trade, he fell into trouble shortly after achieving his associate’s degree, and the fees and interest on his school loans nearly tripled during the time he was incarcerated. When he was released, Jim quickly found himself on the street. He managed to secure a spot in a supportive housing program, just squeaking by on the odd construction jobs he picked up with his one asset: an old Dodge Ram pickup. But when the truck’s transmission went out, the $3,000 he was quoted for the repair might just as well have been $100,000. With no steady job and no way to get around to construction sites to find one, Jim wondered if this was it for him: finished at 50.
Through word of mouth, Jim found the Glendale Communitas Initiative, a nonprofit founded in 2014 to help people overcome poverty. His case manager, Priscila Vergara, helped him put together a personalized plan to get him back on his feet. Together they rewrote his resume and started his expungement process, renegotiated his school loans, and they found a promising job lead –– but it required a working truck. Jim got several quotes on the cost but couldn’t figure out how he could possibly pay for it.
Reviewing the quotes, the Communitas team noticed that one of them was from a shop next door. They walked over, talked with the owner, and his generosity and the help of a few local donors, the transmission was fixed. Jim interviewed several times and landed that job, which eventually came with a company car.
Jim is now living independently, with benefits for the first time in his life. After partnering with a volunteer certified financial planner, he is now debt-free and planning for retirement. Within 8 months of teaming up with Communitas he is now totally self-sufficient. Today he’s paying it forward, helping other homeless men and at-risk kids find their way off the streets. Far from finished at 50, Jim’s just getting started, “I finally feel I’m able to make it on my own.”
Jim’s story is just one of many local residents who’ve teamed up with Communitas to overcome poverty and get back on their feet. Last year, Communitas increased the monthly income of their program participants by an average of 123%! To learn more, visit them at www.GlendaleCommunitasInitiative.org