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Catalyzing Change: Antonio’s Story

Catalyst Miami is a member of MAF’s national Lending Circles network based in Florida’s Miami-Dade County. Through its diverse programs and services, Catalyst Miami is dedicated to fighting poverty and improving health, education, and economic opportunity in Miami communities. Catalyst Miami became an official Lending Circles provider in 2014, adding credit-building to their suite of programs and social services.

To date, Catalyst Miami has provided over $350,000 in loans to participants. They have skillfully integrated Lending Circles into their other programs so that clients already engaged with the organization can easily access a tangible, proven opportunity to build their credit. They’ve recruited many of their participants by tabling at local community colleges and engaging students. They want to provide students with the resources to minimize their debt and to set them up for a future of financial health and prosperity.

In September of 2014, Antonio came to Catalyst Miami for an appointment with a financial coach. He was worried about a few things that had appeared on his credit history, and he wanted advice.

Though they hadn’t been at the top of his mind when Antonio arrived at Catalyst Miami, he ended up sharing a few other concerns during the intake process with the financial coach: he and his spouse had recently separated, and Antonio was worried about how the separation would affect his young child. He also shared that he was formerly incarcerated.

Antonio wanted help repairing his credit and mapping out a plan to become more financially stable.

Antonio has always had a strong work ethic. When he came to Catalyst Miami, he had already taken the step of enrolling in classes at Miami Dade College. He had also found a job servicing ships at the port of Miami. It was hard work, but Antonio liked it, and he took whatever shifts he could get. He found downtown Miami energizing. He spent so much time in the area that it usually wasn’t worth it to commute home for just a few hours of rest. Instead, Antonio would spend most of his time off the clock in the “Chasers’ Lodge,” a facility located right on the port where workers could rest in between working hours.

Antonio shared with his coach that the long commute had left him dreaming of owning his own condo or a house closer to the port. He also shared that he had a burgeoning interest in real estate sales. He was drawn to the idea of becoming a landlord and renting out properties to add another income source.

After that first conversation at Catalyst Miami, the financial coach encouraged Antonio to enroll in Catalyst’s free Financial Coaching program to work toward his goals. The coach suggested his first steps should be to review his budget and start repairing his credit score.

One of Catalyst Miami’s strengths as an organization is the range of services that it offers. And Antonio has taken advantage of many.

After joining the program, Antonio got started by tackling his budget. He worked with a coach to assess his income and expenses and set achievable goals.

Next, he worked with Catalyst Miami’s health team to enroll in a health insurance plan.

Finally, he turned to his credit score, which had suffered in recent years. Antonio signed up for credit coaching to identify ways to improve his score. One of the coach’s recommendations was to join Lending Circles, MAF’s zero-interest loan program proven to help people establish and increase their credit scores.

Since working with the staff at Catalyst Miami, Antonio has moved closer and closer to the financial stability he wanted for himself and his family. He has paid off the entire $3,000 he previously had in credit card debt. He has a monthly savings routine, and he has $500 in his growing savings account. And his credit score?

Antonio is proud to share his current credit score: an impressive 730.

Not only does Antonio now feel confident about how to maintain his strong credit score and continue building it, but his healthy credit profile helped him buy a car with a low interest rate, something he wouldn’t have qualified for before.

He was so satisfied with his experience in the program that he began to praise the outcomes to friends and colleagues.

As a result, four of his friends have since joined the financial coaching program at Catalyst Miami and enrolled in the Lending Circles program!

Antonio is proud of all that he has achieved. And he now knows that his personal and professional dreams are well within his reach.

About the author: Vaughan Johnson is a Community Wealth Manager at Catalyst Miami, which offers financial coaching, education, and health programs in Miami, FL. He holds a Master’s from Florida International University.