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City helping residents own their own homes
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Carmen Emmanuel is looking forward to being a homeowner "with those keys in my hand," and "knowing that something is finally mine."
Hinesville's Next Step program is making her dream a reality.
Through Next Step's Individual Development Account Program, Emmanuel and other families headed by a single parent are receiving the educational and financial assistance they need to become homeowners.
Emmanuel was grateful beyond words when IDA program director Tabeter Robinson presented her with the opportunity to participate.
"I cried ... because it was just good to know that someone believed in me," Emmanuel said. "That someone wanted to see me succeed in what I wanted to do for me and my child."
Since moving to a Hinesville apartment six years ago, Emmanuel said her eight-year old has always "wanted us to get our own home," mostly to be able to play on a trampoline in the backyard.
Emmanuel calculated how much her monthly rent would compare to house payments.  
"I realized I was putting like $7,000 a year into somebody else's property when I could be putting that money into my own property," she explained.
The IDA program is helping Emmanuel put her money toward something she can truly own.
Participants in the program make deposits into savings accounts and the city and federal Department of Health and Human Services matches individuals' contributions to help them buy a home or go to college.
"I think what makes this program so unique is the two-to-one match," Robinson said. "So (participants) can leave out the program with almost $6,000 towards a home purchase or secondary education."
To qualify for the program, a single-parent family must attain a certain income level.
"While the population and the economy has increased in Hinesville, not everyone has benefited from that increase," Robinson said. "So those individuals that fall below that poverty line, we want to help them and guide them and give them some of the same alternatives that people in the upper class have."
During the first couple years of the program, participants are required to attend financial literacy classes. The learning course must be completed before individuals can start saving and receiving money.
As an IDA partner, Heritage Bank representatives lead four-hour Saturday sessions on budgeting, managing credit and other financial skills.
Emmanuel has been in the IDA program for two months and called the classes an eye-opener."
"It's teaching us basic money skills, something that was never taught to me," she said.
With the help of her son, Emmanuel is putting what she has learned into practice and is already seeing some benefits.
"It's hard at first," she admits.
Instead of letting "money just go through your hands," Emmanuel is committed to sticking to her budget while still paying her bills.
The IDA program has also taught Emmanuel that she is not alone in her stuggle.
"I come to realize that I'm not the only one in this predicament," she said. "And it makes me feel good to know that I'm not the only one out there struggling. I'm not the only one trying to do his or her best to do right for our children."
This is the second year of the federal program's five-year implementation in Hinesville. Applications are now being accepting.
"Our vision is to see at least 15 families walk away with an asset purchase, whether it's home or secondary education," Robinson said. "That's 15 families that we've helped move from one level to the next level."
For more information call 876-6573 or visit
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