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Carshawn Thompson has been approved for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan and is on her way to homeownership.
Her journey has not been easy, according to a video from a speaking engagement at Bowie State University.
Thompson has spent time in a shelter.
But since 2021, she has been working with HomeFree-USA, a nonprofit housing organization that specializes in homebuying guidance, foreclosure prevention and housing development.
“We are not only surviving life, we are thriving,” Thompson said, about her and her husband, adding that the program has helped with credit repair, debt elimination and financial education.
“I believe that this program is necessary for people like us who have lived in and survived poverty,” Thompson said. “Homeownership will provide us with security and a sense of accomplishment.”
The idea for HomeFree-USA was inspired nearly 30 years ago when Marcia Griffin and her husband, Jim, attended a conference where there were lenders and disparaging remarks were made about African Americans and homeownership. Jim Griffin was already working in the mortgage industry.
A month later the organization was created.
Griffin said she has always felt the need to serve. She has always been people-oriented. She began to feel a need to educate African Americans on financial planning when she owned MCM, a high-end handbag store downtown. It was there when she noticed people riding the bus to come to her store and spend hundreds of dollars on the merchandise.
“The thing that was so hurtful was why would people with a moderate income spend $500 on a wallet? It was so discouraging to me to see folks come in and put so much focus and all of their little money into buying these goods. It’s the value that people saw spending money on a wallet because it got a name on it,” Griffin said. “Something is wrong with this picture.”
The mission of HomeFree-USA is to bring the lenders and mortgage giants together with communities of color so that everybody wins, Griffin said. The organization advises homeowners, so they don’t get ripped off.
“Homeownership is more about the feeling of security. It’s about having more room. We really would benefit by putting money into having something of our own,” Griffin said.
Griffin said her goal is to connect people with a vehicle for wealth building, while being a catalyst to show them how to do that.
Through its Fast Track to Homeownership program, HomeFree-USA offers guidance to renters through classes and a personalized plan that gets them to homeownership faster.
The organization also has a Center for Financial Advancement where they partner with students from historically Black colleges and universities to recruit, train and place them into internships and careers with mortgage and real estate companies.
Diversity is important, Griffin explained, because people from other cultures may not understand the dilemma that many African Americans face.
“When you are not making a lot of money, you can’t get help from your parents and you just can’t go get $20,000 like other folks can do– we’re starting from scratch. When you are starting from scratch that is another level. It is hard.”
She made an effort to partner with HBCUs after hearing at a conference that African Americans weren’t interested in the mortgage industry.
“I said I am going to show the mortgage industry the power of Black folks coming out of these HBCUs,” said Griffin, an alumnus of Fisk University. “I am going to show them the strength, the confidence that HBCUs give these students.”
Recently, five students in the program purchased homes the same year they graduated from college.
The HomeFree-USA’s national intermediary network oversees 58 affiliated community and faith-based housing counseling agencies that served 37,827 homebuyers, homeowners and renters last year. The organization also assists potential homebuyers with finding money for a down payment.
Griffin is elated when her clients get into a home.
She smiled during a zoom call when she spoke of an 18-year-old who attended classes with his mother while in high school. He graduated, got a job and purchased a condo.
A couple of years later, he took the equity in the condo and purchased a four-unit apartment building. He lives in one unit and rents the others to tenants.
Griffin said that often in the African American community, people think they can’t do it. Her goal is to show them how.
“Generally, your rent is going to go up every year. Sometimes it’s a little. Sometimes it’s a lot. You have no control over that. When you have your own home, you have a place of comfort. You’re going to pay the same amount year after year after year. Every single month that you pay there is equity being built in the house, and the house is increasing in value.”
Want to learn more about HomeFree-USA and the work we do? Reach out to us today: 855-493-4002 | email@example.com