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Our FOCs At Work On The Ground | Mon Valley Initiative | June 2017

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Commitment and determination plus support from caring coaches lead to financial stability.

Mya, a 30-year-old mother of four, was new to Pittsburgh after escaping domestic violence in Florida. Living with a friend in Homestead while her mother took care of her children until she found a safe and stable place to live, she was referred by the Salvation Army to Mon Valley Initiative. After attending the Workforce Program’s orientation in October 2016, Mya met with Samson Murage, Senior Workforce Development Specialist and Financial Coach. Her initial goals were to find work and permanent housing.

Mya had experience as a pastry chef and focused her search on the restaurant industry. With Samson’s help, Mya updated her resume, enrolled in MVI’s computer class, practiced interviewing skills and applied for jobs. During financial coaching sessions, Mya worked on financial goal setting, budgeting and personal visioning.

Early one morning, Mya came to the MVI office in tears. She shared that she had a major disagreement with her friend, was asked leave and slept on the library steps the night before. The staff team at MVI worked with Mya to find emergency housing and provided her with food pantry information and transportation assistance between MVI and the shelter. Mya continued financial and employment coaching sessions with Samson as well as the computer class. Samson made a referral to Dress for Success to ensure that she’d have proper interview attire and each day, Mya completed numerous on-line employment applications. She engaged with employers by attending Job Clubs on Monday and Thursday afternoons. She also walked door-to-door to local restaurants.

After many days of job searching, Mya landed a restaurant hostess job for $9.50 per hour. When she called Samson with the news, she expressed her intention to continue participating in the financial coaching sessions to improve her credit and build savings for an apartment.  She received more good news: she had been moved to the top of the Housing Authority’s list because she was employed and living in a shelter; she could now receive a housing choice voucher. Mya found a house with enough bedrooms for her family, and her mother brought the kids home just in time for Christmas. Through continued work with Samson, Mya accepted a new customer service job with an MVI employer partner for $10 per hour and kept the hostess job for the weekends.

Through continued coaching sessions, Mya developed a plan to pay off old credit card debt and save more money. She diligently remained focused on the plan and in a few months improved her credit score from 539 to 570. Mya expressed her heartfelt appreciation to the MVI team for being there in her time of desperate need. She told Samson that, “MVI truly helped me to get a fresh new start. I have a beautiful home, I’m making enough money to provide for my children, and I have a brighter financial future.” Samson credits Mya’s perseverance for her success: “I saw Mya’s determination and commitment to achieving her employment and financial goals and I was so honored to have had the opportunity to work with her.”


Neighborhood Allies, with technical support from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and financial support from local partners, launched three Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) in January 2015 in/around Pittsburgh to help low and moderate income families build assets and attain financial stability and upward mobility. Since launching in 2015, our local network of FOCs have provided bundled services to over 1000 individuals. 719 people have obtained employment and 380 have increased their net income.

Visit our website for more information on the local Pittsburgh network of Financial Opportunity Centers or contact sarah@neighborhoodallies.org.

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