Today we’d like to introduce you to Mercedes Fuentes.
Hi Mercedes, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
As the first person in my family to immigrate to the USA, I have many stories to tell, but the most important and unique story of my life started when I came to the USA. I immigrated from Chiapas, Mexico in 1999 to Denver along with my husband and my 5-year-old daughter looking for new opportunities. I did not know any English at the time, but I enrolled in a class to learn the basics. Due to my lack of credit score, I was not able to rent out a place right away. We were practically homeless and then began living with a friend. During that time, I started taking advantage of different programs such as the IDA (Individual Development Account), homeownership, computer skills, and financial literacy classes offered by a local nonprofit. Through these programs, I was able to accomplish several goals including building my credit score. Once this was established, I was able to rent a tax credit for affordable housing for low-income families. I started participating in all activities and classes this nonprofit had available. After a few months of being enrolled in the program, I was offered a part-time job teaching computer classes to the residents of the same housing complex. My dream was to become a homeowner and I attended their one-on-one counseling session to learn more about the homeownership process. As a result, I started saving through the IDA program to purchase my first home. I bought my first home in 2002, one year after I started working full-time as the community technology coordinator. Coming to the USA was challenging. Nobody truly understands how difficult it can be to survive with very little to no income at all. My diverse background experience has allowed me to witness and understand the struggles of families, their obstacles, and their needs. In fact, I went to school and obtained a degree in social work with the intention of actively promoting change, social development, and promoting the well-being of people. As well as addressing social deficiencies as needed, whether in the family, group, community or social environment in which they live. Focusing on affordable housing is no exception, especially when knowing that the issue of affordable housing is one of social inequality. It is a violation of one’s right to adequate and decent housing. I believe that every person deserves an affordable place to live. For this reason, I am dedicated to my career in helping low and moderate-income families by sharing my expertise on how to achieve financial stability and housing security. I have been acknowledged nationally for my efforts, most notably as a nominee for the White House Champions of Change in Housing and locally as the Key Counselor Award with the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline. I also received the Civil Rights Award in 2016 and continue to be a passionate advocate for equitable housing across Colorado. I am happy to be part of Elevation CLT, a great organization that contributes to creating positive change by offering affordable homeownership to our low-income families in our communities.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have had many challenges in the past when I came to the USA which included the lack of English, credit, a job, being low income, and being homeless. To overcome all these obstacles took me not only to work hard but self-discipline and dedication.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
My main role is to educate, and support qualified buyers to buy CLT homes that meet the program requirements. When I think about my past situation, I think about all these families who barely make ends meet. All components in the life of a family are important- it is a cycle- but ultimately, owning a home is a crucial foundation for helping low-income families build strength, stability, and independence. We all know that when families move into qualified housing and move into decent, affordable homes, their health, educational attainment, security, and personal wealth certainly improve. I am thankful for these opportunities because I am now able to help others in the community. I love what I do, I am passionate about working with families in need and I find my job is very rewarding, particularly when I see other families accomplishing their financial goals and being financially sustainable. The work must continue as the need in our community is increasing every day.
Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
I am thankful for the many resources and opportunities this country offers. I am especially thankful for various nonprofit organizations that helped me in one way or another. One of my first supporters was a dear friend of mine, Tony Frank who at the time worked for Rocky Mountain Communities. He believed in my capabilities to impact my community in a positive way. With his help and that of Rocky Mountain Communities, I was able to secure my first part-time job and received the support I needed to purchase my first home. I would also like to recognize all of South West Community Center’s staff who taught me English, which built the foundation for my success. I also have the deepest gratitude to the Mex family for saving me and my family from homelessness and welcoming us to their home with open arms. I would like to credit Elevation Community Land Trust for the opportunity to be on their team and for allowing me to be part of many families’ homeownership dreams. Last, but not least, a special thank you to my husband Ruben A. Solis who has always supported me in accomplishing my dreams. People always say that behind a great woman is a great man and that is my husband.
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