Monday, May 20, 2013

At WEAVE, Inc. Clients Get Sound Financial Advice

By Nance O'Day

Teen Room at WEAVE's Safehouse

Here at WEAVE we recognize that two primary reasons survivors remain with their abusers, or return to them, is that they have no funds of their own and cannot afford housing. Nearly all have suffered from financial abuse and have had no say in how income is used or any access to resources.

We require all new Safehouse residents to meet with the WEAVE employment and housing specialist within the first three days of their stay, because whatever survivors may decide, above all we want them to know that they have choices, and that they have the information to make informed choices. WEAVE feels very fortunate to partner with Allstate in the Partnership’s B.O.S.S. Program, where we receive a complete financial curriculum that we’re able to share with all the survivors we serve.

Living Room at WEAVE's Safehouse
Employment and housing counseling both require an understanding of financial resources and how to allocate them. This is information that abusers have typically withheld from clients in the past. When we start to ask questions about income, rental history and credit rating, clients frequently respond with an attitude of fear or dread. They report their credit is “terrible,” but don’t know how much they owe or to whom. We assist clients with obtaining credit reports and setting up budgets, and refer them to credit counseling if needed. As clients gain a better understanding of their financial position, they start planning and begin to feel some control over their lives.

The majority of our Safehouse clients have never had a resume, and many have never held a paying job. By asking about life experiences we are able to assist clients with creating resumes that reflect transferable, marketable skills they may not even realize they have. For example, a client I’ll call “Karla” recently showed me a cover letter in which she’d written that she had very little work experience because she had been a housewife. I was amazed to then look at her resume and see the varied, lengthy work experience she had: forklift operator, chef and administrative assistant, just to name a few. We revised her cover letter and highlighted her wonderful skills.

One of the many private family rooms at WEAVE's Safehouse
Karla took the Myers-Briggs-Jung personality profile and cried a little as she read the description of her results; she told me that for the first time, she felt “visible” and “understood.” We matched her results to occupations which would be a good fit for Karla’s personality based on these results, and Karla stated she felt overwhelmed by the many interesting choices after being told for years that she “wasn’t good for anything.” Karla visited our WEAVE, Inc. Thrift Store and was given assistance in selecting clothing suitable for an interview. Within a couple of weeks of moving into the Safehouse, Karla was dropping her three children off at daycare each morning, dressing professionally and out looking for work every day.

After a 33-day stay in our WEAVE Safehouse, Karla exited to a new, independent safe home, with a new job and child care she could afford. She was a motivated client who appeared to gain confidence in her skills and abilities in a very short time. I reminded her when she left about her first cover letter and she gave me a hug with tears in her eyes and said she was very thankful for all the help she had been given during her stay at WEAVE.

Shared kitchen at WEAVE's Safehouse
When we answer our Support and Information line we provide referrals to callers based upon their individual immediate and long-term needs. We do the same for our Safehouse clients. At the heart of the matter in both cases are the financial concerns about how clients will survive if they leave their abusers. This requires knowledge, careful planning and a feeling by clients that they are entitled to know about these things so that they can gain power and control over their finances.



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