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A broken system | WORLD News Group

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Since I started reporting on homelessness three years ago, I’ve been learning a lot about poverty—who it affects, why it happens, and how it keeps someone there for a long, long time. One common thread I’ve seen among people experiencing homelessness is a lack of social support. Without consistent, empowering, dignity-giving help, it’s almost impossible for someone to lift themselves out of poverty, because the entire system works against them.

I witnessed this broken system again through a church friend named Olivia (who gave me permission to write about her). Olivia and I became friends two years ago when we both joined a new church at the same time. She had just moved back to her hometown, Los Angeles, after a stint in Arizona and was working as a regional manager over a restaurant chain. Because she had just moved to LA and had really bad credit after a terrible marriage with her ex-husband, Olivia was staying at Airbnbs, hoping to save enough to eventually rent an apartment in LA. Then one storm hit—and then another, and then a full-blown hurricane and hail and earthquakes, until it seemed like her life was shattering.

It all started with the repossession of her car. I was with Olivia when repo men took away her red Kia. We had just finished eating dinner at a Korean restaurant and were walking into the parking lot when we saw a man fiddling with her car door. “Hey, hey, hey! What’s going on?” Olivia exclaimed.

The man showed her documents from a car repossession company. He was towing her car away because she apparently hadn’t been making her car payments for the last two months. Olivia was flabbergasted. Her ex-husband had verbally agreed that he would make her car payments in lieu of paying child support. But now that her oldest daughter had graduated high school and joined the Navy, her ex-husband had stopped paying without bothering to tell her. So we sat on the sidewalk, watching the man hitch her car onto another car and drive away, while Olivia muttered over and over again, “I don’t understand. I just don’t understand!” 

That was the first storm. Olivia bought a dinky used car for $6,000. It was a dud. Within two weeks, the car gave out in the middle of the highway. She exchanged the useless vehicle for an extra week of free lodging at her Airbnb. Her cash reserves were almost dry, but at least she had a job—and then the next storm hit: The company that hired Olivia faced a lawsuit that forced it to shut down its operations. The company laid off Olivia and all her staff. Now she was jobless, carless, and soon-to-be homeless.

A note on Olivia’s history: When she was a baby, her mother left the family because Olivia’s father was abusive. Olivia said he became physically abusive toward her instead. A teacher noticed Olivia kept coming to school with bruises and told authorities. Olivia testified in court against her father and entered the foster care system. She lost a lot of family that day—her relatives blamed her for airing the family’s dirty laundry in public. She had no helping hand in her life except a church she had been attending for a few months. 

We reached out to our church, and people poured out love offerings. The church raised enough funds to pay for Olivia’s Airbnb for a month while she applied to as many jobs as possible. One place reached out for an interview but required her to work on Sunday. So she turned it down, telling them she could not miss church on Sundays. Then a start-up company reached out, willing to let her take Sunday mornings off to attend church. 

Meanwhile, because of her horrible credit report, nobody was willing to sell her a car. So she rented one for about $1,300 a month (she had to pay extra because she had no credit cards—due to bad credit). Her $50,000-per-year salary was barely a middle-class income in LA. She still couldn’t afford to rent an apartment: Most apartments in LA require tenants to pay at least a security deposit and one month’s rent up front. But continuing to stay at an Airbnb would be unstable and more expensive than a monthly rent. So I helped pay the $3,600 for her to move into a modest apartment. 

Things seemed to be looking up: Olivia had a new job, and she was saving to buy a car. Then three months later, her company’s investors suddenly pulled out, and the company shut down their operations overnight. Once again, without warning, she was out of a job. She received no severance.

That was November. Today, Olivia still hasn’t found a new job even though she’s been applying to anything she can find. Most good-paying jobs she applied to require a weeks-long application process. My fiancé and I helped her rent a car for a month to get to interviews, and although she reached the final interview process for several positions, she never got a job. She even dumbed down her resumé and applied for positions at Subway, McDonald’s, Starbucks.

Her savings dwindled to nothing. She advertised for a roommate. One woman responded, but then she too abruptly lost her job and couldn’t pay rent. Olivia canceled her internet service. She couldn’t pay her cell phone bills. She couldn’t sign up for quick gig jobs such as Uber or Postmates because she had no vehicle. She tried to apply for benefits such as unemployment and food stamps, but the government said she had previously made too much money to qualify. Come back in six months, they told her. But she had $0 in her bank account and was subsisting on runny rice porridge and cheap tacos that gave her diarrhea. 

One Sunday, she came over for lunch after church and sat at the counter crying: “I’m just so exhausted, Sophia. I feel like I can’t breathe. I just don’t know what to do anymore.” 

I share Olivia’s story to show how expensive it is to be poor, and how self-reliance and self-determination only go so far.

I share Olivia’s story to show how expensive it is to be poor, and how self-reliance and self-determination only go so far. No matter how hard Olivia works, all it takes is one crisis for someone who’s already teetering on the edge of poverty to tumble onto the streets. She may be an able-bodied, smart, hard-working individual with an impressive resumé. But she can still be stuck in poverty when the only jobs available are entry-level, minimum-wage positions with companies that won’t hire her because she’s overqualified. Liberals understand this broken system, which is why they advocate for more government assistance, more social programs, more progressive policies. 

But there’s something different about Olivia that sets her apart from other people trapped in the cycle of poverty: She’s been free-falling for the last year, but before she smashed rock bottom, she always had a church community that stepped in to catch her when even social welfare programs couldn’t. At some point, she had to give up her pride and not be ashamed to ask for help from her church family (nobody knew she had been behind on her cell phone bills until she lost her phone service). 

When I first met Olivia, she told me her favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” That’s still her life verse, even when she feels like some stranger has punched her in the face and she’s lying on flat on her back, wondering what just happened. That faith gives her hope and purpose. It gives her awe and insight as she reads the Scriptures, breathing in the fresh power and sweet grace of God’s Word, divinely tailored to strengthen and encourage her weary soul.

Olivia worries that she’s a burden to the church. But I wish she’ll see what a blessing she is to us, for pushing us to reflect what the Church is called to be as the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25), to witness a faith standing strong while tested, and share the love and grace that we ourselves first received.



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Bad Credit

3 mortgage refinancing options for those with bad credit

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Does a low score mean limited options? (iStock)

Record-low interest rates are dominating the news cycle and homeowners, in particular, are jumping to refinance. Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association puts current refinance activity at 98% higher this year than last year, even amid a global pandemic.

Those with low credit shouldn’t skip rate shopping either as there are still options available in today’s low-rate environment — even for those with the thinnest credit profiles.

Mortgage rates vary by lender. Many non-traditional lenders take other factors into consideration outside of credit score, like earning potential and steady work history. While some of these lenders do advertise their qualification criteria, many borrowers may not happen upon them unless they actively shop for refinance rates and offers.

These days, borrowers can quickly explore their mortgage refinance options by visiting Credible, which allows loan seekers to compare both rates and lenders in one place.

1. Look at FHA loans

FHA loans aren’t just for first-time buyers with small down payments. The benefit to doing an FHA refinance is that this option, backed by the Federal Housing Administration, does consider borrowers with sub-600 credit scores who hold less than 20% equity in the home. In fact, only those with less than 20% are eligible for an FHA refinance.

There’s even better news for those with existing FHA loans. With the newer FHA Streamline Refinance product, borrowers can refinance without an appraisal and with lower out-of-pocket costs, saving both time and money.

HOW TO REFINANCE YOUR MORTGAGE

2. Explore VA loans (if you qualify)

Veterans receive many benefits for their service to our country, and one of those is access to mortgage loans backed by the government via the Veterans Administration (VA). Not only are these loans offered at some of the lowest interest rates available, but they also benefit current and past service members regardless of their credit.

Those with current VA loans can also consider refinancing through the VA with the Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan program. The IRRRL program is similar to the FHA Streamline Refinance product in that it does not require hefty out-of-pocket closing costs or an appraisal.

If you’re interested in finding the lowest interest rates around, however, you should consider using a multi-lender marketplace like Credible. Credible allows you to compare rates and lenders to ensure you find the best deal.

HOW TO GET THE LOWEST MORTGAGE REFINANCE RATES

3. Opt for cash-out refinance

A cash-out refinance may make the most sense for those with low credit due to a large amount of high-interest debt. Leveraging a cash-out refinance turns home equity into a liquid asset, which borrowers can then use to pay off outstanding debts. Additionally, refinancing to a lower interest rate will save money on the repayment. With current credit card interest rates above 17%, and cash-out refinance rates at 3.194% APR for a 30-year fixed option, this refinance option makes financial sense for those battling to get out from under their debt.

You can visit Credible to get pre-qualified for such a loan and to shop around for loan options among different mortgage lenders. By providing some basic information, you can find out if approval for a loan is likely and can see what rate you’d pay so you can determine if a mortgage refinance loan is affordable.

IS NOW A GOOD TIME TO REFINANCE YOUR MORTGAGE?

What are today’s mortgage rates?

It’s important when shopping for a mortgage refinance to keep an eye on interest rate changes week to week as even a small increase adds up to thousands saved on interest. Again, Credible is a great place to shop. You can compare rates and complete the entire mortgage refinance application process online. Find your rate today.

HOW REFINANCING YOUR MORTGAGE CAN PUT MONEY BACK IN YOUR POCKET

As of the time of writing, (the week November 19th) the current interest rates are:

  • 30-year fixed-rate refinance average: 2.75%.

In the month prior (Week of October 19th), the average 30-year fixed-rate refinance was much higher at 3.16%.

To illustrate the difference, let’s look at the numbers. A consumer refinances a $300,000 loan at 3.2% in October pays over $167,000 in lifetime interest. Another consumer who waits a month and refinances $300,000 at a slightly lower rate of 2.8% percent will pay just $143,000 in interest over the life of the loan.

The bottom line

Don’t let a bad credit score keep you away from the significant savings to be had with today’s low interest rates. While lower credit may not qualify you for the best rates available, depending on when you refinanced and your credit score at the time, refinancing now could still be a big financial win.

To start, investigate refinance options by shopping with multiple lenders to see potential rates, and then input those figures into a mortgage refinance calculator to visualize savings.

Finding the best mortgage refinance rates takes time. You’ll need to compare rates from multiple lenders. Credible allows you to compare multiple lenders to ensure you meet your personal finance goals. Find out how much you could save on your loan amount by refinancing now.

HOW TO FIND THE BEST MORTGAGE RATES AND FASTEST CLOSINGS

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Can I Cancel My Full Coverage Car Insurance?

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While you’re financing a vehicle, you must maintain full coverage auto insurance – it’s not required by your state, but by your lender. If you don’t have a loan, you still need to meet your state’s minimum insurance requirements to legally drive your car on the road. Here’s what you need to know about full coverage insurance, and your choice in the matter.

Auto Loans and Full Coverage Car Insurance

Financing a vehicle means you borrow money from a lender, and then you pay them back in installments. Until you completely pay off the auto loan, the lender has ownership rights to the car. They’re listed on the vehicle’s title as a “lienholder,” and it gives them rights to repossess it if you stop paying or break the loan contract.

One of the requirements of an auto loan contract is that you have full coverage car insurance until you pay off the vehicle. Since the car is technically the lender’s, they can, and do, require that the vehicle is covered to the fullest extent.

If you cancel your full coverage auto insurance while you’re financing, you’re breaking terms of your loan contract. The insurance company generally contacts your lienholder right away and lets them know that the insurance coverage has lapsed.

Your lender can then put what’s called “force-placed” coverage, and add the cost of it to your monthly loan payment. It’s typically more expensive than if you were to choose the insurance for yourself, since the lender isn’t going to shop for the cheapest rates out there – you’re the one footing the bill – because they just want the car covered.

If you refuse to pay for the force-placed coverage, or you can’t afford it, then the lender hires a recovery company to repossess your vehicle. Your other option is to reinstate your previous full coverage that you canceled, or find another insurance plan that meets your lender’s requirements. Contact your lender to see what their insurance requirements are and what you need to do to remove force-placed coverage.

Types of Auto Insurance Coverage

If you’re not financing, then you can simply opt for personal liability and property damage (PLPD) coverage if you choose. This is usually the most basic level of insurance coverage offered by insurance companies, and it’s required to carry this coverage to drive your car on the road in nearly every state.

Can I Cancel My Full Coverage Auto Insurance?Full coverage is defined as a combination of comprehensive, collision, and liability insurance.

  • Comprehensive – Can cover damage from “perils” such as fire, theft, vandalism, or other single accidents not involving another driver, and carries a deductible.
  • Collision – Covers your vehicle in the event of an accident with another driver, regardless of who’s at fault, and carries a deductible.
  • Liability – Covers bodily injury and property damage if you’re in an accident and you’re at fault. This is the most basic level coverage that’s required in nearly every state.

The consequences of not carrying any sort of auto insurance on your car are usually hefty fines, and possibly other serious long-lasting repercussions. Not having auto insurance could lead to a misdemeanor or even a suspension of your license depending on your home state.

Check with your state’s minimum car insurance requirements so you can be sure that your insurance plan is up to snuff.

Car Insurance Too Expensive? Consider a Different Car!

The price of your auto insurance is also dependent on what vehicle you’re driving. Newer cars are usually more expensive to insure because they have more bells and whistles that are costly to insure and fix.

Used vehicles are typically less expensive, but it also depends on the make and model. Some cars are more desirable than others, which can make some vehicles a higher risk for theft. Your credit score can even be a factor in your auto insurance costs in many states.

If your car is too expensive to insure, then consider getting another vehicle. Sometimes, though, getting into an auto loan can be hard if your credit score isn’t the best. Instead of searching all over town for dealerships that can work with your credit, let us help at Auto Credit Express.

We’ve produced a nationwide network of dealers that are teamed up with bad credit car lenders, so let us look for a dealership for you in your local area. Fill out our free auto loan request form to begin the search for your next vehicle.

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Mark McCown: Eviction is different under land contract – The Tribune

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Dear Lawyer Mark: I have had my old house for sale with realtors for almost two years now, but it still hasn’t sold.

I had a few people look at it, and even make offers, but none of them can get a bank loan because of their bad credit.

I don’t want it to keep sitting empty, but sure as heck don’t want to rent it out and have someone tear it up.

One of the people who had bad credit asked me if I would sell it to him on a land contract.

I’m really thinking about doing it, but need to know what all needs to be in the land contract.

I also want to make sure that he is right when he told me that if he didn’t pay, I can just evict him like a rental agreement.

Is that correct? — WORRIED IN WINDSOR

Dear Worried: Chapter 5313 of the Ohio Revised Code governs land contracts.

Under its sections, the contracts must be executed in duplicate, and must contain at least 16 particular provisions.

Some of those are obvious, such as the sellers and buyer names and addresses (referred to as the vendors and vendees for a land contract), and some not so obvious, such as a “statement of any pending order of any public agency against the property.”

The land contract must also include the legal description of the property, sale price, interest rates, payments due dates, whether there are any other charges, as well as who is to pay for the property taxes, and whether there is a mortgage owed, among other items.

Even though it is not technically required, other provisions should go into the land contract as well, such as who is responsible for maintaining property insurance, and who the beneficiary of any insurance claims would be.

This can be extremely important, for example, if there were a fire that didn’t totally destroy the premises, but the buyer wants to stay.

Who gets the money from the insurance company — the seller for the purchase price, or the buyer for the damage to what will be his house?

Your prospective vendee is partially correct in stating that you can evict him like a rental.

If he is 30 days late on the payment, and the scenario below does not apply, you can evict him and cancel the land contract in a court case fairly quickly, if you follow the correct procedures.

If you do this, you cannot sue him for missed payments, unless he paid less than the fair rental value of the property.

However, under RC Section 5313.07, if a buyer has paid more than 20 percent of the purchase price or has paid on the contract for more than five years, the seller can only get possession of the land by bringing foreclosure proceedings.

This means you would have to bring a lawsuit against him, get a judgment in the lawsuit, and then have the property sold at a sheriff’s sale after advertising the sale, just as a bank would do in a foreclosure.

You can only recover up to the amount still owed to you on the property, with the excess proceeds from the sale going to the buyer.

Thought for the Week: “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” Oscar Wilde

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.

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