Two years ago, Steven had a lot of sensible ideas about managing money. He never wanted to be in debt, so he saved up for a house and paid in cash rather than taking out a mortgage.

But not long after moving into his new home, a fire ignited while he was sleeping and the entire building quickly became engulfed in smoke and flames. He managed to narrowly escape before it consumed everything he owned…except his truck. Steven fell unconscious and woke up in the hospital with nothing but the pants he had on when he crawled out to safety.

After time in the hospital, Steven was released and realized that he was now homeless. He had to rely on family for a place to stay while he built his life back up.

Steven looked for possible resources to help him on his journey, returning toward self-sufficiency and independence he greatly values. It started with Project Home, a district court probation office program provided “to educate low-income offenders and/or their families regarding the possibilities and benefits of homeownership, to connect them with the best homeownership resources for their needs, and to help them through the home buying process from their individual starting point to the realization of homeownership.” Prosperity Connection works with Project Home as a community partner to assist participants in working on bad credit, down payment assistance, no down payment, low-cost loans, and low or no closing costs, as well as walking them through the home buying process. That’s where he met Prosperity Connection Financial Coach, Evette Baker.

A month later he called and set up an appointment to get started. Because Steven had not used a credit card account in the past, he hadn’t established any credit. So he and Evette created a plan together to build credit and pay off outstanding bills that had not been taken care of because of his situation. He was making progress, checking in on a monthly basis, when he was faced with another setback. Steven had applied and been approved for a home, but then the offer was rescinded. He was informed that his identity had been stolen. Someone claiming to be him applied for 7 credit cards.

Unexpected obstacles like this would have deterred most people, but Steven was determined to keep going. He contacted Evette for help. She pointed him in the right direction and showed him exactly what he needed to do to including: notifying all associated financial institutions, placing a fraud alert on your file by contacting any of the three main credit reporting agencies and notifying the proper authorities. According to Steven, that added up to about 25 letters that he sent out. Steven shared that he felt very comfortable coming to Evette whenever he had questions or didn’t understand something. In each case, she wrote everything down, step by step.

After a lot of hard work and persistence, Steven was finally ready to go back to the bank to apply for a mortgage. Evette connected him with a contact at Midland States Bank–one of Prosperity Connection’s trusted financial service partners–and he was approved for a loan.

Just last month, Steven moved into his own home again. It’s a beautiful ranch-style house with a large yard and tall, shady trees. He is already working on little improvements to create his vision for the place, inside and out.

The day he got he got his keys, he stopped by the 24:1 Community Excel Center to thank Evette. “She’s a guardian angel,” he said. “If I can do it, anyone can do it…I worked hard for what I have, but I wouldn’t have got as far without her help.”

Steven credits Evette with teaching him about how to build credit (never go above 1/3 of the credit card limit, paying it off every month for a zero balance) and budgeting for your lifestyle. “Everybody has wants and needs. I need to take care of needs first, and my wants will follow.” Steven is saving up for his ‘wants’, which include a motorcycle and a boat.

For now, he says he is happy to have a place of his own where he can spend his time, working out in the yard or hanging out and relaxing with friends and family.