Updated: Apr 6, 2018
40 years ago I became a resident of Pittsburgh, PA under some not so favorable circumstances. My family moved to Pittsburgh from a small town in West Virginia, seeking employment and a change from the coal mining industry. My father was seeking what was then a coveted steel mill job in the hopes of giving his family a better life and a new start. Unfortunately, immediately upon arrival to Pittsburgh, my father discovered that the job he was expecting to be here wasn’t and our family ended up jobless and homeless living in our car on the streets of a new city. Within weeks our family was separated, my brother and I were removed from my parents custody and placed in a group home until they could secure housing. As an adult when I began to analyze trauma and how it had impacted every decision I’ve made as an adult, it all starts with that incident for me. Although we were living in deep generational poverty way before coming to Pittsburgh, I was oblivious to it until the day I was ripped from my mother’s arms. There would be many more reminders that I was poor and many ugly experiences would continue to rear their heads in the form of trauma.
My attraction to real estate and helping people resolve trauma led me to teaching and developing financial education curriculum and first time homebuyer programming. I didn’t want to teach “cookie cutter financial education, I wanted to teach what I knew people needed. They needed financial education that focused on the trauma associated with long term exposure to poverty. That trauma dictates every decision, particularly financial decisions.
The work that many of us do everyday, is driven by a passion for helping people overcome the barriers, pain and trauma that we have had to endure ourselves. It’s important that we never feel ashamed of what we’ve been through or where we come from. As service providers, we can do so much more good by letting people know that we know exactly what they’re going through because we’ve been where they are. Hunger, homelessness and the stress of worrying about which bills I won’t be able to pay are a not so distant memory for me. Those memories fuel my hustle, hunger and mission to find ways to provide opportunities for others to get what they need to move from poverty to self-sufficiency.