Santa Maria Takes a Multifaceted Approach to Help Family Reach its Goals

Thirty-six-year-old Elizabeth Ramos and her family came to Santa Maria when they first moved to Price Hill. They have benefited from Santa Maria’s workforce and financial coaching, Project Lift, and improving their credit through a Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Twin Savings Account.

When Elizabeth moved to Fort Myers, Florida from Gurabo, Puerto Rico with her husband, Félix-36 and children, Jadvier-17 and Alondra-15, she was pursuing better opportunities for her family. Unfortunately, Elizabeth went from being an emergency room nurse in Puerto Rico to a housepainter in Florida, which meant a major pay cut. That’s when the Ramos family decided to move to Cincinnati.

After completing an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course at Queen City Community College, Elizabeth and Félix sought assistance from Santa Maria Community Services. While Elizabeth and Félix continued working as housepainters, Félix wanted help getting his own painting business off the ground and Elizabeth was accepted into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences, but she did not have the money to pay for a background check and admissions fees. Phil Dunn, Workforce Coach at Santa Maria, was able to enroll Elizabeth into Project Lift.  Project Lift is designed to remove barriers and identify solutions to enable families to reach self-sufficiency. Project Lift funding allowed Santa Maria the flexibility, funding, and resources to meet the Ramos family’s needs quickly. Unfortunately, COVID-19 caused both Elizabeth and Félix to lose their jobs, but Santa Maria’s COVID-19 relief fund provided some much-needed assistance during that time and both have been able to return to work.

When the family could not make their utilities payment, Phil was able to utilize Santa Maria COVID-19 relief funds to make that payment for them. “Phil has been helpful, supportive and kind,” Elizabeth said, “he knows how to listen and is really interested in us reaching our goals. We know he cannot do everything, but he tries his best and we are very grateful to him.” Phil is just as impressed with Elizabeth, “I think Elizabeth’s greatest strength is resilience. Her family has faced a lot of adversity since they’ve been in the United States, but they are very tenacious,” he said.

The Ramos family is still receiving employment and financial coaching.  They opened a LISC Twin Savings Account in order to improve their credit score. LISC Twin Accounts are a tool designed to help low- to moderate-income people build credit and save money. Participants are issued a 12-month, $300 loan which is immediately transferred into a “locked” savings account, where it remains until the loan is paid off thus improving the participant’s credit score. The Ramos family has increased income this year from 39% to 153% of the Federal Poverty Level!

Elizabeth and Félix are currently working as painting subcontractors for a property management company while Elizabeth continues with schooling and the couple builds their credit in order to reach their ultimate goal of home ownership. Their next step could be Santa Maria’s Homesteading program!

Working with Santa Maria has improved Elizabeth’s outlook on life. “Santa Maria’s services have helped us move and reach some of our goals, like me going to college. On an emotional level, I feel more confident and motivated. I have more hope for the future,” she said. Elizabeth looks forward to finishing college and working as a nurse once again. Félix wants to grow his painting business and be his own boss.

“We have had better experiences with Santa Maria than any other organization we’ve worked with,” Elizabeth said. To donors, she has a request, “Please keep supporting Santa Maria! The staff there are kind, friendly and attentive, and they meet people where they are. Our lives would be much worse without their support.”