Budget Buddies: Mapping a Route Out of Homelessness

Anita Saville and Kathy Brough formed Budget Buddies to help homeless women lift themselves out of poverty.

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Anita Saville and Kathy Brough - Founders - Budget Buddies

SOT: So, Nancy is coming back to us to coach. I believe this is her seventh time coaching.
-Wow.
-Well I have somebody here who says that they don’t know how to make a budget, they don’t have a bank account.
-I wonder if we should put her with a tough buddy.
-Okay.

Anita: A lot of women end up in poverty for various reasons. Their families have been living in poverty for years, and years, and years. They have little financial education. Then you couple that with poor role models, lots of personal financial challenges, and women are just overwhelmed by, by money issues.

SOT: Jasmine Torros, she wants to get her life back on track.

Anita: Budget Buddies provides financial education for low-income women through an innovative program that combines 12 instructional workshops with one-to-one coaching. The women who are the clients, who come to us through social service agencies, we call them the buddies.

Kathy: You don’t have to have a financial background to be a coach in Budget Buddies. You just have to care about women helping women.

CARD: Anita Saville + Kathy Brough – Founders – Budget Buddies – Lowell, Mass. – USA

Kathy: I’ve always done finance and operations for small businesses. 23 years ago I started volunteering at a homeless shelter and became a client advocate ’cause I felt I could offer them help applying for benefits.

Anita: I worked for Fidelity Investments as an editor, but, while I was writing for upper income and middle-income folks, what was happening for the folks who didn’t have advice on how to manage their money?

TEXT: Kathy and Anita met while volunteering on a political campaign in Massachusetts. They shared an interest in helping homeless women.

Anita: We realized that we worked pretty well together and we complemented each other in terms of the things that we liked to do.

Kathy: Yes. It’s lucky that, you know, I don’t like the podium and Anita does. So I do the finances and she does the writing so, perfect.

TEXT: Anita and Kathy consulted with social-services agencies and homeless shelters to develop the curriculum for Budget Buddies.
In 2010 they held their first workshops, pairing a volunteer coach with a homeless buddy.

Anita: All workshops are about an hour and they’re scheduled every two weeks. On the in between week the coach and her buddy can meet and apply what they learned in the workshop to the buddy’s individual financial situation. We also have workshops that deal with self-esteem, changing behavior, and really giving the women the confidence that they need in order to be able to go on and manage their money after Budget Buddies stops.

TEXT: For five years, they ran Budget Buddies out of Kathy’s home and a convenient café. They raised money from state agencies, foundations and private donations to support operations.

Anita: The first couple of years it’s hard to convince funders that you’re going to be around, because you’re the new kid on the block and we started our organization just at the top of the recession so people were laid off, people were, you know, they were closing nonprofits. That actually worked to our benefit because a lot of professionals who were out of work said, “Well, what am I going to do with myself? Well, I’ll go volunteer,” so they brought their professional talent in.

TEXT: Kathy and Anita finally opened their office in 2015.
They have two full-time and four part-time employees.

SOT: And they’ve been meeting with them about Budget Buddies, they’ve been trying to talk to them about their goals.
-Great.
-Yes.

TEXT: The program has trained over 275 coaches to help more than 400 buddies.

SOT: It was like a learning base between the both of us, you know. Step by step. Like I’ve shown her stuff, she’s shown me stuff, you know, we kind of give and take.

Anita: There’s a tradition we have at graduation. Because it’s the last night that the group is going to be together, we have the buddy say something to the coach and the coach say something to the buddy.

Kathy: Our graduations are very special. We get to every graduation.

SOT Anita: You have done something that a lot of people never do. Never make a budget, never really put money away for savings, never track their expenses to see how much they’re spending. So you are so far ahead of most of the people in this country. And for that, we give you applause.

Posted: January 5, 2017

Nusha Balyan at The Story ExchangeBudget Buddies: Mapping a Route Out of Homelessness