WORCESTER, Mass. - A new program is helping people in Worcester who have fallen on hard times get back on strong financial footing.

The Worcester Housing Authority and Workers Credit Union are providing financial coaching for the Authority’s residents to help them save up enough money to move into long-term housing. 

Essence Thomas, a 28 year-old resident of the Curtis Apartments who lost the father of her child to gun violence in 2020, said she was nervous the first time she met with a financial coach. She hadn’t looked at her credit score in years, but with their support, she was able to pay off three loans and get a steady job to take care of her four year-old son. 

“It definitely taught me to sit down, make a budget, figure out the needs and wants, which is a major thing that helped me as well,” Thomas said. “Just putting together a budget plan for the future. And I'm going towards my goals in a better way.”

Thomas has lived in WHA housing since last year, and was homeless prior to that. Participants in the program are part of the Authority’s Transitional Housing Program, which helps families move into long-term housing. 

Tom Littlepage, Thomas’ financial coach with Workers Credit Union, said she approached the work with the perfect attitude.

“I was super impressed with Essence from the start, because after our very first meeting I had given her two or three tasks and a couple others that were kind of optional, and when we met again two weeks later, she had done all of them and then more,” Littlepage said. “And that really indicated to me that she was taking it seriously and this is somebody that really wanted to change her life.”

Thomas said the program is especially helpful as a single parent, adding that she’s grateful to wake up and not worry about where she’s going to sleep at night. 

In a statement, Worcester Housing Authority CEO Alex Corrales commended the program, adding that he’s proud to offer this kind of support. 

"We couldn't be any happier with this award-winning program, which not only teaches participating residents the technical skills they can use to pursue their own vocation, but soft skills to help them succeed in life and thrive in the job sector," Corrales said. "It really has become one of the biggest sources of pride for the WHA and brings personal satisfaction for those who participate in the program."