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Sacramento CA leads US in homeless veterans sleeping outdoors

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Carl White sat on a black and red couch in his tent — his Pitbull mix, Buddy, at his feet — and a black “Army” hat placed proudly on the top of his head. A camouflage tarp hung at the tent’s entrance in south Sacramento, flapping in the breeze.

White, an Army veteran, has been homeless for about 2½ years. When his seasonal job working as a painter ended, he could no longer afford rent.

“Everything was normal up until about two and a half years ago and then I kinda got stuck out here,” White, 60, said. “I haven’t got $2,500 to spend on an apartment.”

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Carl White said that he could never move without his dog Buddy. He said he has been homeless for about two and a half years. When his seasonal job working as a painter ended, he could no longer afford rent. Renée C. Byer rbyer@sacbee.com

There are an estimated 646 homeless veterans in Sacramento County, 75.5% of whom are sleeping outdoors or in vehicles, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report released this year. Only one other major city in the country, Los Angeles, had a higher percentage of its homeless veterans sleeping outdoors.

The number of homeless veterans in Sacramento has more than doubled since 2016, when there were 308 homeless veterans, including 46% who were sleeping outdoors, according to HUD data.

“It’s shocking,” said Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness. “I hope it shocks our elected officials into action.”

One California city ended veteran homelessness

Eighty two municipalities and three states have effectively ended veteran homelessness, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Riverside County is the only California locality on that list.

In that Southern California county, staff created a list of homeless veterans living outdoors or in shelters, said Michelle Davis, housing manager at the Housing Authority for the county of Riverside. Representatives from the Veterans Affairs office, outreach workers, the housing authority and shelter providers met weekly to work their way through the list, finding housing for each person. They used Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers, rental assistance, and tiny homes, Davis said.

The task was smaller for Riverside, which has an estimated 2,884 homeless people countywide, compared to Sacramento’s 5,570. But Davis said Sacramento County officials could duplicate the same strategy.

“It’s kind of like you’re all rowing in the same direction and everyone is focusing on one common goal instead of everyone working on different sub-populations,” Davis said.

Joe Smith, advocacy director for homeless nonprofit Loaves and Fishes, says if Sacramento replicated Riverside’s approach, that would be “a huge step.”

“Let’s learn from other municipalities that have ended homelessness for veterans and let’s just get it done,” Smith said. “This is absolutely, positively doable.”

Erlenbusch agreed, but added that he wants Sacramento to also focus on housing other sub-populations, such as families, seniors, LGBTQ people and young people, at the same time.

Sacramento County has 1,148 homeless families, with 49% sleeping outdoors or in vehicles, according to the HUD report. Only one other major city, Long Beach, has a higher percentage of its homeless families sleeping outdoors.

Organizations helping

The Volunteers of America currently has 192 Sacramento veterans in a program helping them find permanent housing and employment, said Kia Phillips, case manager for VOA’s veterans services. Since Jan. 1, 114 Sacramento veterans have found permanent housing through the program. The organization also serves 40 veterans in transitional housing at Mather Community Campus, where they receive alcohol and drug recovery, credit repair and job placement assistance as needed.

The Salvation Army has 40 beds for veterans at a downtown emergency shelter, said spokeswoman Samantha Jarosz. The facility, which offers counseling and help finding jobs, resolving legal issues and reconnecting with family members, served 72 veterans from April through June.

Many homeless veterans are hesitant to seek out those programs on their own, Smith said.

“They’re very proud of their service, they’re just very proud individuals. For some, because of that pride, they have a tough time reaching out and asking for help,” Smith said. “A lot of them are conditioned to be survivors and so that’s how they’re taking this — just another mission to survive.”

That’s the mindset White has, too.

“I’m proud to be a veteran,” White said. “I served my country for almost nine years. I don’t think I should get anything more than anybody else does. But they could set up some sort of program to help (veterans).”

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Carl White, 60, sweeps up the inside of his tent Thursday in Sacramento after restoring his broken bar and toppled furniture from a wind storm. Renée C. Byer rbyer@sacbee.com

About 88% of homeless veterans in Sacramento County have been homeless for more than a year, according to a 2019 census count of the homeless community.

To contact hard-to-reach homeless veterans, three times a week, VOA staff go to encampments with food and water to build trust and urge them to enroll in the programs. VOA has openings for outreach staff, but is having a hard time finding employees, preferably who are veterans themselves, said Christie Holderegger, a VOA vice president and chief development officer.

“They need to have more people out there pounding the streets,” said John David “Pitbull Dave” Chapman, a veteran who spent 36 years homeless along the riverfront before finding housing through the VOA. “(Homeless veterans) don’t understand there’s help out there. You got to have someone show them there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

But even if homeless veterans do decide to go to a shelter or participate in a program, they will likely have a hard time finding a spot. All the VOA’s shelters and programs for veterans are full, Holderegger said. The Salvation Army emergency shelter does have spots open, but fewer than a dozen, Jarosz said. Both organizations had to reduce capacity when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Both could increase capacity with more private donations, Holderegger and Jarosz said.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg Wednesday released a Master Siting Plan To Address Homelessness, which includes 20 new sites in the city for homeless shelters, tiny homes and sanctioned tent encampments, pending City Council approval Tuesday. The plan includes a site in North Sacramento for 15 veterans to live in 10 tiny homes.

Erlenbusch said the plan should have more housing and shelter designated specifically for veterans.

“The 15 (beds) is a small step forward to address the men and women who served our country,” Erlenbusch said. “It’s not nearly enough. It’s not even close.”

White said he would definitely want to live into one of the new tiny homes, so long as he’d be be the only person to occupy a space.

“I don’t like living with a lot of people,” White said. “I’ve always been on my own.”

Despite receiving no government assistance or paycheck, White is optimistic that he’ll be able to get into housing eventually.

“Things have a way of happening,” White said. “I know it sounds hopeful, but you’d be surprised.”

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Before joining The Bee in 2018, she covered local government at newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.



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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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