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The hidden face of homelessness in central Wisconsin

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By Kris Leonhardt

CENTRAL WISCONSIN – Many experiencing homelessness do not show up in official figures. Often they find temporary accommodations or sometimes they simply just do not want to be found.

“Word gets around that we are going to go out and look for them in the night time, they’ll go and hide – many of them will hide; because, they do not want to be, No. 1, disturbed, and many times, they do not want to be found. They just want to be left alone in their privacy. It’s hard to find them,” said Stevens Point Salvation Army Director Ed Wilson, who has been working with the agency since 1984.

Most often those experiencing homelessness move about unnoticed during the day.

Tiffani Krueger was among a group of central Wisconsin residents that began pilgrimages to metro areas in 2013 to seek out those experiencing homelessness to help provide for them and “make them smile.”

“We went everywhere we could to see where people were in the community that were sleeping outdoors, just to go love on them, and bring supplies, bring gear, but it was more just a ‘be there for people concept’… It was a way to connect with people who were less fortunate,” recalled Tiffani Krueger, Evergreen Community Initiatives board chair.

“Once the community in Stevens Point found out that we were doing this, I started getting phone calls from people that were sleeping outside here in our own community.

“Within that first year, I ended up working with 97 people who were sleeping outdoors here in Stevens Point. I had no idea we had a homeless population.”

By the numbers

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness said, “As of January 2019, Wisconsin had an estimated 4,538 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that total, 592 were family households, 359 were Veterans, 200 were unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24), and 533 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

“Public school data reported to the U.S. Department of Education during the 2017-18 school year shows that an estimated 18,853 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year. Of that total, 316 students were unsheltered, 2,257 were in shelters, 1,176 were in hotels/motels, and 15,104 were doubled up.”

Those numbers are based off of Point in Time count data, as well as information received from public schools.

Narrowing those numbers down a little more, a 2019 Homeless Management Information System report – reflecting 2018 counts – shows 230 emergency shelter clients in central Wisconsin, with 58 percent of them single adults, 40 percent families, and two percent of them children.

Homelessness

While many local agencies said the numbers of homeless individuals have remained pretty steady, the potential for an increase in the upcoming months is very likely. MMC stock photo

 A changing environment

While many local agencies said the numbers of homeless individuals have remained pretty steady, the potential for an increase in the upcoming months is very likely.

“I do not believe these numbers are increasing state wide in general. I believe that people feel there is an increase in homelessness due to transient homeless households traveling to seek services, and because shelters are closed or at reduced capacity due to COVID-19, and COVID-related loss of employment, school closures, and parents needing to help teach their children at home and staying home to care for children,” said North Central Community Action Program (NCCAP) Executive Director Diane Sennholz.

“Numbers in the next six months will likely increase. Due to many not returning to work because of COVID-19, businesses closing, and the lack of affordable housing. Also with the current moratorium in place some households will choose to not pay their rent and will be evicted in January. Also many landlords will not be able to sustain their rental properties without income, and will sell the properties. Landlords need rent as they have mortgages and other payments too.”

“Numbers, I think, are pretty steady,” added Wilson. “But, what I am seeing is the age bracket (is changing.) It used to be the older gentlemen being the one that we would see that was typical that we would think of homeless. Now, we are seeing more younger, and we are seeing more families.”

Wilson added that he has also seen more government involvement in recent years.

“We’ve gone to that new philosophy of housing first, which the goal of the federal government is for us to get everybody housed and end homelessness. The way we do that is provide housing and then work from there. Get them off of the street, get them into an apartment or into a program, and then work on whatever things they need work on whether it is an addiction, or whether it is employment, mental health – to work on that after you get them housed,” he added.

But Sennholz said that agencies can run into challenges in serving those needs for potential clients, via previous evictions, bad credit scores, and previous criminal charges.

Available resources

NCCAP administers to those experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless in Wood, Lincoln, and Marathon counties.

“NCCAP provides eviction and eviction prevention services through local funding agencies such as United Way and Salvation Army. NCCAP is also a No Wrong Door agency and all staff are trained in the Coordinated Entry system. Households who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless are eligible for Coordinated Entry. Once in the system we can pull from the Coordinated Entry List for our Supportive Housing Program, Rapid Re-Housing Program, Prevention Programs, and Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program,” Sennholz said.

In Portage County, the Salvation Army offers assistance in the form of emergency shelter, three meals a day, bus tickets to get to job interviews and doctor appointments, case management, laundry and showers, food pantry, rental assistance through four programs, clothing vouchers, and hygiene products. Evergreen Community Initiatives currently offers a kids closet, warming center, and personal hygiene pantry. The agency typically offers meals to those in need, but it is currently suspended due to COVID-19.

Central Wisconsin agencies serving those experiencing homelessness include: Stevens Point: Evergreen Community Initiatives, 715-252-7860; Salvation Army, 715-341-2437; Family Crisis Center, 715-343-7125. Marshfield: Marshfield Area United Way, 2-1-1. Wisconsin Rapids: Love, Inc., 715-424-5683; United Way of South Wood & Adams Counties, 2-1-1; Wausau: Salvation Army, 715-845-4272. All of Central Wisconsin: North Central Community Action Program, 715-424-2581.

How you can help

Sennholz said that giving to local agencies helps NCCAP and other programs provide for more clients.

“Donate to local agencies that partner with us to provide funding for assisting those households at risk. Local dollar funding through the United Way and Salvation Army serves over 2,500 families in Wood, Lincoln, and Marathon County. Without this funding we would see a huge increase in our Coordinated Entry system and make the waiting list impossible to work through. Several households would likely become homeless. This need will still be here when COVID related issues slow down,” Sennholz said.

Wilson adds that local food pantries need assistance more than ever, with some pantries currently empty of stock.

“I know for all of our food pantries, because all of us are sought out by the homeless and those that are in need, with the loss of two major food drives – which is the Boy Scouts and the postal drive – that’s hurt all of our pantries. I know one pantry; they just have nothing on their shelves,” Wilson explained.

In addition, Wilson stated that the Salvation Army is always in need of blankets, pillows, and linen.

“We go through that all of the time. Usually when somebody leaves, we will just let them take them with them. Not the pillows, but we will let them take the linen with them, a blanket; so, if they don’t find a permanent place that they at least have something to be able to cover themselves with. So, we provide that and that is always a big need for us,” he added.

For Evergreen, the need is people. With many of their volunteers being elderly, the current environment has taken a major source of helping hands from the organization.

“We lost a lot of volunteers, which is expected, because we had a lot of elderly people that were volunteering. They were really amazing and for years, we had a really good crew, but I anticipated that we would lose quite a few,” Krueger explained.

“We need volunteers. We are looking for a younger clientele, a younger group of volunteers to come in and help out.”



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How To Find A Co-Signer For A Loan – Forbes Advisor

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If you need to borrow money and your financial situation isn’t the strongest, you might be able to boost your odds of approval by seeking out a co-signer. And on the flip side, if you have good credit and a strong income, it’s possible that someone might come to you and ask you to co-sign for their loan.

The truth is that co-signing on a loan can be a win-win for both parties, but it can also result in broken relationships, destroyed credit and financial hardships for the borrower and the co-signer. In order to forge a successful co-signer relationship, you need to know exactly what a co-signer is, how the arrangement works and how to dodge potential pitfalls.

What Is a Co-signer?

A co-signer is a secondary person who agrees to pay back a loan in case the primary borrower defaults (i.e., doesn’t pay it back). When you co-sign on a loan, the loan is recorded on both your credit report and on the main borrower’s credit report. As long as they make on-time payments, you’ll get the benefit of those marks too. However, if the borrower misses a payment or just stops paying on the loan entirely, you’ll be on the hook for the loan. And if you fail to pay up, the lender can actually take you to court for the money.

If you’re looking to borrow money, lenders generally require you to get a co-signer if you have bad credit or no credit, limited income or something else that makes you a lending risk. This is commonly the case for young people who are just starting to build their finances, and who may not have any credit history yet. For example, roughly 90% of all private student loans were made with a co-signer during the 2019/2020 school year according to MeasureOne, a data analytics company.

However, not all lenders accept co-signers, so if you have a limited credit history and think you’ll need help qualifying, it’s best to confirm with the lender before applying.

When a Co-signer Makes Sense

Using a co-signer on your loan can make sense in a lot of cases:

  • You have bad credit
  • You don’t have much income
  • You’re young and you don’t yet have credit in your name

Using a co-signer can help you overcome these barriers so you can get approved for a loan. You may even be able to get lower interest rates if you and your co-signer are approved.

But in order for this setup to work, you’ll need to have a few things in place:

  • Trust between the borrower and the co-signer. The borrower is asking a lot of the co-signer, and so you’ll want to make sure you trust each other.
  • The co-signer needs to have a good credit score. If the co-signer’s credit is the same as yours—or worse—they may not be approved to co-sign on the loan.
  • The co-signer needs to be able to pay the loan on their own. If the borrower defaults on the loan, a co-signer should be able to comfortably afford the payments on their own.

Co-signer vs. Co-borrower

A co-signer is someone who agrees to be a backup for the loan payments. A co-borrower, on the other hand, is someone who’s equally liable for each payment (i.e., before it’s past-due), and who typically also shares ownership rights for whatever the loan was for.

For example, a husband-and-wife team may be co-borrowers on a loan for a house and both listed on the title. This means they own the home equally, and are both responsible for making payments each month.

But if a parent co-signs on their kid’s car loan, they aren’t first in line to make the payments. The lender only contacts them for payment if their kid doesn’t pay up. They also don’t have any ownership rights in the car—even though they’re on the hook to pay for it.

How to Find a Co-signer

Just about anyone can be a co-signer. But since you both need to trust each other, it’s more common to use friends and family with whom you already have an existing and healthy relationship.

If you need a co-signer, make sure you consider who to ask carefully. This is a big ask of them. You’ll need to be open when discussing your financial situation, and they’ll need to be comfortable with disclosing their financial situation, too.

It’s entirely possible that your first choice for co-signer may not be able to comfortably take on the financial responsibilities. If that’s the case, you need to be able to let them off the hook gracefully. Even if they are financially able to co-sign for you, they may not want to take the risk, and you need to be understanding of that.

In fact, it’s entirely possible that you may not have anyone close enough to you who could be a good co-signer. In this case, it may be necessary to consider some popular alternatives to a co-signer arrangement.

Co-signer Alternatives

Not everyone is able to use a co-signer, and that’s OK. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Here are a few other options to try:

Shopping Around With Other Lenders

The world is full of all types of lenders, some of whom specialize in the types of loan applicants who traditionally need a co-signer. These “bad credit loans” can be a good (if expensive) alternative, but you’ll want to be careful here as there are a lot of shady lenders.

Here are two important things to ask of any bad credit loan lender:

  • What are the rates and fees? Avoid short-term payday loans, which typically charge APRs of 400%, compared to the average two-year personal loan at 9.34% APR.
  • Do you report to the credit bureaus? This will help you build credit, so you don’t need to rely on these types of lenders in the future.

Use Collateral

You might not have a person who can guarantee your loan, but you might have property. Collateral refers to something you own that you agree to give to the lender in case you default on the loan. If a loan has collateral, it’s called a secured loan. Common secured loans include auto loans, mortgages and even some personal loans.

If your lender allows it, you may be able to qualify by agreeing to use something valuable you own as collateral. But remember, if you put up your car as collateral, for example, and fail to pay the loan, your lender can repossess your car.

Ask Friends and Family

If your friends and family are financially stable and willing to lend you the money but prefer not to co-sign on a loan, consider asking them for the money outright. You could ask for it as a gift, or better yet, a loan that you repay back to them.

If you opt for the loan route, make sure you draft up a legal agreement of your own. This reduces the likelihood that your relationship will sour over time if your co-signer feels like they aren’t getting paid back according to schedule. You don’t want to be that family member they’re always hounding for cash.

Go to a Credit Union

Credit unions are often more willing to work with you than banks or other lenders. Of course, it’s not a free-for-all and you will need to meet their loan requirements. But if you’re having a hard time getting approved elsewhere, it might be worth stopping by a credit union in your area to see if they can help.

The downside is that credit unions have their own membership requirements which you’ll need to meet before you apply.

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Fall 2020 Brings Increased Regulatory Focus on Financial Institution Detection of Human Trafficking | Moore & Van Allen PLLC

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On October 15, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Department of Treasury (FinCEN) released its Supplemental Advisory on Identifying and Reporting Human Trafficking and Related Activity (Supplemental Advisory). The last time FinCEN provided guidance on identifying trafficking in anti-money laundering (AML) processes was in Guidance on Recognizing Activity that May be Associated with Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking – Financial Red Flags on September 11, 2014. The evolving tactics of human traffickers and behaviors of victims required updated guidance in order for financial institutions to better meet Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) obligations to assist the government in detecting and preventing money laundering. 

The Supplemental Advisory focuses on four emerging tactics used by human traffickers to carry out and hide the proceeds from their illicit operations: front companies, exploitative employment practices, funnel accounts, and alternative payment methods. Front companies are lawful, licensed, and registered businesses which are used by traffickers to comingle the illicit proceeds generated from their scheme of human exploitation with that of a legitimate business. Examples include massage parlors, nail salons, even electrician services, and faith-based mission work. 

Labor trafficking can be harder to detect than sex trafficking for AML departments. FinCEN’s Supplemental Advisory alerts financial institutions to examples of exploitative labor practices, including visa fraud, wage withholding, and recruitment fee advances. Note that in 2019, the Federal Acquisition Regulation: Combating Trafficking in Persons was amended to address prohibited recruitment fees and broadened contractor responsibility for violative recruitment fees in supply chains. 

Funnel accounts continue to be a common tactic wherein a trafficker coerces a victim to open one or more bank accounts in their own name, and then directs them to deposit, transfer, wire, and withdraw monies in amounts below a reporting threshold, for the benefit the trafficker or the enterprise. Because the accounts are often held exclusively in the victims’ names, the trafficker remains anonymous. 

Such account activity may lead to an Unusual Activity Report or Suspicious Activity Report but that would erroneously target the victim, not the perpetrator. Accounts may be closed by the financial institution, or at the direction of the trafficker, following overdraft or low balances, which can cause victims to incur bad credit status and prevent them from accessing financial services in the future. 

The Supplemental Advisory further alerts financial institutions to the prolific use of prepaid cards, virtual currencies, smartphone cash applications, and third-party payment processors to advertise their sex trafficking business and receive payment. 

Although the indicators list addended to the Supplemental Advisory is not significantly different than past iterations, it adds a set of case studies. Specific perpetrator and victim vignettes are effective in modernizing detection tools as they allow financial institutions to keep their pulse on real life examples relayed by law enforcement and survivor advocates. The Supplemental Advisory also reminds financial institutions that they are protected from liability for information sharing afforded under Section 314(b) of the USA Patriot Act. Traffickers often implicate multiple financial institutions and only through a wider lens and open communication can otherwise lawful-appearing activity be identified as suspicious.  

Finally, the Supplemental Advisory notes FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Rule, promulgated in 2018, which generally requires some financial institutions to identify beneficial owners of commercial customers. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, “whoever knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value” may be subject to criminal and civil liability. Therefore, diligence and monitoring processes are to include potential third-party participants in an exploitive scheme.  

FinCEN’s advisory on human trafficking is timely. In the last few months, regulators have signaled increased attention on financial institution responses to human trafficking. This past summer, Deutsche Bank was fined $150M by The New York State Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”) for compliance failures related to client Jeffrey Epstein, his sex trafficking enterprise and correspondent banks. In the Consent Order, NYDFS found the Deutsche Bank “conducted business in an unsafe and unsound manner [and] failed to maintain an effective and compliant anti-money laundering program.” This September, Westpac Bank was fined $920M USD by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Australia’s financial intelligence, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism regulator) for failures in AML reporting, record keeping and detection, including transfers indicative of child sex trafficking. This fine is the largest paid to an Australian regulator for violation of money laundering laws to date. Also in September, the United Kingdom announced that the U.K. Modern Slavery Act of 2015 will be strengthened to (i) allocate more funding to enforce its requirements and (ii) mandate that companies’ modern slavery statements cover certain topics ranging from due diligence to risk assessment. 

Increased regulatory focus on financial institution responses to human trafficking deserves attention.

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Can I Negotiate a Bad Credit Auto Loan?

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Yes, you can negotiate your deal on a bad credit car loan, though you may not have the same leverage as someone with a better credit score. Without the strength of a high credit score behind you, you may not be able to qualify for as low of an interest rate or monthly payment as you’re looking for. But a lot of things associated with an auto loan can be negotiated.

Preparing to Negotiate a Bad Credit Auto Loan

Before you go toe-to-toe with a dealer, make sure you know what kind of power you have in this arena. This means knowing your credit score and what’s on your credit reports. Without this information, you’re powerless to push back against a lender’s assessment of your credit situation.

Auto Credit Express Tip: Remember, you’re most likely going to be interacting with the special finance manager at a dealership, who talks to the lender on your behalf. The dealer isn’t responsible for the rates and terms you qualify for, and the lender can’t determine how much a dealership is willing to cut a deal.

The only way to know you deserve better terms than you’re being offered is to do your research. Find out what the average car loan looks like for people in similar situations. You don’t want to go into a dealer with unrealistic expectations.

  1. First, get your credit score and credit reports. Now is a great time to do this, because the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax – are offering U.S. consumers free weekly access to their credit reports. This deal only lasts until April 2021; you can request a copy of your reports by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
  2. Next, look online for some national averages on auto lending interest rates and see where you fall on the FICO credit scoring model. Knowing where you stand enables you to prepare for the next steps in your car loan: your budget.
  3. The final step to getting ready to negotiate on your auto loan is to plan your car buying budget. If you don’t know what you have to work with, or how to accurately calculate the out-the-door and overall costs of your auto loan, then you won’t have a leg to stand on when talking to a dealership.

What Are You Negotiating For?

Without a plan or a budget to refer to, you can’t have a goal to negotiate for. When it comes to a bad credit car loan, there’s no point in negotiating just because you can.

You should have a set goal in mind, whether it’s a target interest rate, a specific loan term, or a set monthly payment amount. Don’t give these things away to the dealer, though. Keeping your numbers close to the vest is what gives you the power to make a deal on your terms.

In order to get an auto loan deal you can live with, you have to know what you can afford. To find this out, you can do a few simple calculations that the lender does when determining if your budget can handle a car loan. This is your debt to income (DTI) ratio.

Your DTI ratio lets you know how much of your monthly finances are already being used by your existing monthly bills, including an auto loan and car insurance. If you’re using more than 45% to 50% of your monthly income, a lender may not be willing to add to that burden.

To see how much auto loan you could qualify for, and to find out if those monthly payments fit into your budget, you can check out our car loan and monthly payment calculators.

Know What You Can Negotiate

In order to negotiate on your bad credit auto loan, you have to know what you can and can’t change your lender’s mind on. Not everything on a car loan contract is negotiable.

Here’s a look at what you can have a crack at negotiating:

  • Can I Negotiate a Bad Credit Car Loan?Vehicle selling price – The first thing you should know you can negotiate on when it comes to an auto loan is the price of the car. The sticker price on a new vehicle typically lists the MSRP, or manufacturer suggested sale price, and may list a dealership price, too. You can ask for any price you want, but the dealer may not agree to honor it.
  • Your interest rate – Your APR is likely to be a bit higher than you’d like with bad credit, but you can always ask a dealership or lender if what they’re offering is the best rate you qualify for. Often it’s not, there’s no rule that says dealers have to offer you the lowest rate or best deal that you’re qualified for by a lender. With that said, you don’t have to accept a deal that stretches you too thin, either.
  • Your loan term – Shorter loan terms mean higher monthly payments, but stretching your loan too long means a higher overall cost. Being a payment shopper, only looking at the monthly payment and ignoring the overall loan cost, isn’t the place to be with poor credit.
  • Down payment amount – When you have credit challenges, you generally have to meet a down payment requirement set by your lender. However, it may not be set in stone. Depending on your other rates and terms, you may be able to negotiate the amount you need up front.
  • Your trade-in – If you’re using a trade-in to cover some of your down payment amount, you may be able to negotiate what you’re getting out of it. It also helps to know the value of your trade-in before you head to the dealership so you can have more leverage in negotiation.
  • Prepayment penalties – If you have to take on a longer term to get a more favorable monthly payment, you can save money in the long run by paying more on your loan whenever possible. Look over your contract carefully to make sure you aren’t penalized for this, or ask the lender to remove the clause if you are.
  • Optional features and equipment – Some features on the vehicle you’re choosing could be optional, and carry additional fees which can be negotiated on. Things like window tinting, fabric protection, and certain optional packages like wheel protection or cargo nets could be charges coming from the dealer. You don’t have to agree to these. This also goes for extended warranties and GAP insurance coverage.
  • Dealership documentation fees – A “doc fee” on any auto loan contract, which dealers charge for preparing your paperwork and talking to the lender on your behalf, is pretty standard, but the amount varies. There’s no reason to pay through the nose for this, and many states cap the amount you can be charged. Expect a minimum doc fee, but try to lower it as much as possible.

With all these things to haggle over, there are three main things that are non-negotiable when it comes to a car loan (which are set by the state, so there’s no getting around them):

  1. Taxes
  2. Title fees
  3. License fees

Ready to Negotiate Your Next Car Loan?

If you’ve tried negotiating on a bad credit auto loan in the past and were unsuccessful, don’t give up! Just because one dealership isn’t willing to work with you doesn’t mean that others aren’t.

Remember to keep your search for a car loan to a two-week window. If you apply for multiple loans of the same kind with different lenders within that time frame, you stop multiple hard credit inquiries from affecting your credit score.

Additionally, when you have bad credit and need an auto loan, it’s in your best interest to make sure you’re applying with a subprime lender at a special finance dealer. These lenders are able to help people in many tough credit situations, such as bad credit, no credit, and even bankruptcy.

Here at Auto Credit Express, we’ve cultivated a nationwide network of special finance dealerships, and we want to get you matched to one in your area! We’ll get right to work for you after you fill out our fast, free, and zero-obligation car loan request form.

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