Bhola Katuwal, his wife Indira, and their two young twins are happily settled into their new home in Boulder, Colorado. Bhola is a graduate from the Personal Investment Enterprise (P.I.E.) program and a new homeowner. P.I.E. provides 4 to 1 matched savings so that participants can build assets through homeownership, secondary education, or small business development. The Katuwal’s road to homeownership wasn’t a quick and easy journey, but Bhola was determined to purchase a home and achieve his vision of the American Dream. As he looks back upon the past few years, Bhola smiles and says, “I went from homeless to homeowner and I am very proud to say that.”
When Bhola and his young family moved from Nepal to the United States, they were staying in the living room of a friend’s home. “It was very challenging to live with four people in someone’s living room. Eventually we were asked to move out and found ourselves homeless.” With an immediate need for housing, the Katuwal’s began seeking resources to keep their family in Boulder. They found support through the Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA) which provided free housing for 6 weeks, giving them the opportunity to begin saving. “I started a job with FirstBank, but it was hard to live on only one income. We could not afford childcare, so my wife had to stay home with the children,” Bhola explained. “We were lucky to save some money, and after 6 weeks we moved into transitional housing, where we paid reduced rent for two years.” It was during this time that Bhola was introduced to the P.I.E. program and he began saving for a down payment on a new home. The P.I.E. program requires that participants attend courses in saving and financial strategy. The goal is to ensure that participants can continue saving after the program and eventually become financially stable. “It’s incredibly hard to live paycheck to paycheck and save at the same time. You never know what is going to happen, maybe your car will break down, you never know. But I was determined, I wanted a house to raise my family in.”
“As it turns out, living paycheck to paycheck makes it very impossible to buy a house in Colorado today. But there are a lot of programs in our community, that provide resources for those who are determined,” Bhola says. The Katuwal family made significant sacrifices to continue their journey to homeownership. He says the biggest challenge is the invisible discrimination, in which not being a native English speaker really hindered his opportunities. Despite the challenges, Bhola and Indira graduated from the P.I.E. program and purchased a home for their family.
“Working through low-income programs was not an easy path for me. It’s challenging to be in services because of something called the ‘cliff effect.’ It happens a lot in social services.” The cliff-effect refers to a barrier to entry, restricting participants to a certain income. If individuals participating in a social-service program exceed the maximum income to participate, they may be removed and exposed to higher costs of living that werepreviously supplemental. “You are at risk of losing everything. I didn’t ask for a $1 raise at work because I knew that if I made more money we could lose our rental home.” Now that Bhola is no longer dependent upon financial services and is a homeowner, he feels confident in advancing his career. “One of the happiest moments of my life was telling people that my family no longer needed public assistance." Having a home and the financial security has given him time to focus on his personal growth.
Bhola made significant changes for his family, and he is now working to help provide the same assistance to those in his community. “I am using my resources to share with other people. Government assisted programs charge a really high interest rate, and PIE is a gift, it’s a much better investment” he says. “People in my community need help in a lot of different ways,” yet Bhola emphasizes that those who are really committed to saving can make the change. “We had to make a lot of sacrifices. We chose not to go out to eat and invested that money into groceries for the week. We then put the extra money in our P.I.E. savings” he explains. “The P.I.E. program is playing a part of the American dream. It may look small but it’s a big deal, we have a place to live now. Programs like P.I.E. are not just helping one person, they are helping entire families.” In the future, Bhola hopes to sit on the board of a local nonprofit, so he can continue giving back to the community.
A last word of wisdom from Bhola, “If you put your mind to it, you can do it.”
Designed to help working, low-income families and individuals save money exclusively for first-time homeownership, post-secondary education, and small business development.
Established in 2001, P.I.E. is a local savings program provided through Community Action Programs of Boulder County and Foothills United Way. The program was designed for low-income families to enroll in financial education classes and save through a matched savings account at a rate of 4 to 1.
PIE Program participants open Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), which are matched savings accounts, for home ownership, post-secondary education, and small business capitalization. PIE is the only IDA program in Boulder and Broomfield counties and one of only three in Colorado. The program provides a maximum match of $4,000 toward the asset purchase of each program participant. Participants in the program must save in the IDA/PIE Program for at least 6 months and may stay up to 30 months. During that time participants save a minimum of $33 per month, which must come from earned income. The savings are matched 4:1 up to $1,000 (with a $4,000 match). Participants also attend a series of 4 financial literacy classes and then an asset specific class related to their purchase goal.
PIE has a blog! Hear from PIE graduates how the program has helped them achieve their goals.
For more information about the Personal Investment Enterprise program contact:
Rosemary Thompson, PIE Program Director
Nino Gallo, Community Action Programs