Friday, August 9, 2013

Every Last Payday Loan, Gone

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Patricia smiles with her youngest son, who attends
summer camp at Holy Family while she works a full day.
When Patricia took out her first high-interest payday loan, she knew it was a bad idea – but she had no other choice.

A single parent, Patricia is the sole breadwinner for her two school-aged sons and her mother, who lives with the family. Her income just couldn’t stretch to cover everything, and Patricia began to fall behind with her mortgage and bills.

The situation reached its crisis when their utilities were about to be shut off. Patricia took out a payday loan, hoping that a small sum would be enough to prevent cut-off and float the family through this rough patch. However the outrageous interest and fees landed Patricia atop a slippery slope – she needed to take out two additional loans just to keep up her payments on the original. She also began to get phone calls from scammers and bill collectors. The pressure was overwhelming.

“There are so many people who want to profit from the misfortune of others,” she said. “I was at the end of my rope. I had lost faith in the goodness of mankind.”

In this state of desperation, Patricia turned to the one constant source of hope and light in her life: her parish, Holy Family in Temple Hills, MD. The pastor at the time, Fr. Damian Shadwell, heard her story and knew where he could get Patricia help: Catholic Charities Parish Partners, a program that works alongside parish staff to assist parishioners in need.

“Parishes in our archdiocese are committed to helping their parishioners. We’re here to make sure they have the resources to do that,” said Laura Yeomans, Parish Partner Coordinator for Prince George’s County.

When her problems overwhelmed her,
Patricia counted on help from her parish community.
Laura worked quickly with staff at Holy Family and also at St. Mary of the Assumption to get Patricia connected to critical community resources. The family was in dire straits, so Laura gave Patricia gift cards for the supermarket, a prepaid Metro SmarTrip card, and a gas card to get to her job.

Next, Laura and staff at St. Mary of the Assumption tackled the issue of the payday loans, enlisting Laura's husband, a lawyer, to help Patricia dodge additional fees and interest charges the loan company had imposed. Patricia contributed what she could to the final amount, and Parish Partners used their emergency funds to pay off the rest. This freed up $400 each month in Patricia's budget that she had been using to pay payday loan interest. 

Finally, the horrible cycle of payday loans had been broken. “I was just relieved. I couldn’t believe she fixed that whole situation for me,” Patricia said.

To ensure Patricia never needed to turn to payday loans again, Laura coordinated efforts at both parishes, finding Patricia additional resources to avoid foreclosure, and a mentor to support her when her burdens felt too heavy. “The key was the dedication of staff at both parishes working to help this family,” said Laura.

More than anything, Patricia wants to make sure no one makes the same mistakes she made in turning to payday loans for help. “There are other, better resources out there to help people,” she said. “I’m so glad I found someone to help before it was too late.

“I never thought anybody on this Earth would care about me, not after all the mistakes I made. But Laura did care, and she did help. I’m still working through a lot of things, but I know I’m on a better path now. And I know I’m not alone.” 

Do you need financial assistance, or do you know a family who is struggling? We have community resource guides available for the entire Archdiocese of Washington - view them here.

If you wish to support Parish Partners' work with families like Patricia's, you can make an online gift here