The Lubert Individual Development Account (IDA) Program is one of the most important initiatives in our region to decrease the wealth gap while allowing individuals and families to become more financially secure. This is Jamie's story:
Jamie Polk’s parents divorced when she was 13 years old, and she and her mother spent a year living in a boarding house. It was a vulnerable age to be uprooted and unsettling to be living in a house in which two other bedrooms were occupied by strangers. Jamie vowed to herself that when she grew up, she’d own her own home so she’d never have to be dislocated again.
For many years, Jamie’s efforts were met with frustration and misfortune. But then she enrolled in United Way’s Lubert Individual Development Accounts Program (IDA), which helped her save money, taught her home-owning skills, and matched her savings. Thanks to that program, Jamie was able to buy a home where she now lives with her husband and two daughters.
“I always consider it a blessing, to have found that program and received the assistance to make my dream come true,” she says. “It’s a wonderful privilege to be a homeowner.”
The Lubert IDA program, founded in 2003 by philanthropist and investment entrepreneur Ira Lubert, is a vehicle designed to help clients build wealth and create a pathway out of poverty. It provides matched savings for low-income and minority individuals for home ownership, post-secondary education and small business expansion.
Over 1,000 individuals and families have graduated from the program and collectively saved over $3 million. During the last cycle, 167 participants completed the program: 61 purchased a home, 98 continued their education, and 8 received resources for their small business. United Way manages and provides oversight of the program with community partners, including ACHIEVEability, a West Philadelphia non-profit focused on helping low-income, single-parent and homeless families achieve self-sufficiency.
The Lubert IDA program is “life-changing,” says Katrina Brittingham, career and education coach with ACHIEVEability, who mentored Jamie through the process of saving for and buying her home.
Jamie’s first attempt to buy a home in 2012 fell through when her husband lost his job a week before they were to make settlement. Jamie had previously been laid off by the Philadelphia School District when she was on maternity leave. The family had already started packing when the bank withdrew the mortgage commitment. Then the house they were renting was damaged by fire and she and her family had to move into cramped quarters with her mother.
In August of 2019, Jamie reached out to the IDA program, which requires participants to deposit money towards their goal in six consecutive months – a task that required Jamie to cut corners everywhere she could. “I put myself on a very strict budget,” she says. When she reached the goal of $2,000, the program matched it with $4,000, to go towards a down payment and closing costs.
Jamie made settlement on her house on Feb. 24 of 2020, fulfilling the vow she made to herself 23 years ago. “It’s a fixer upper but it has everything we wanted,” she says. “It’s in a good neighborhood, it’s ten minutes from the children’s school, it has a backyard, two bathrooms, and a driveway. I’m really happy.”
The counseling and financial support Jamie received from the program was incalculable. “I could not have accomplished this on my own,” she says.
By starting a United Way-supported Lubert IDA Program, participants can build their assets through matched savings for homeownership, post-secondary education, and small business expansion. For more information on participating in or supporting the Lubert IDA Program, please visit here.
Follow along with our year-long #StrongerTogetherSeries as we feature insights and personal stories of the very people and bodies of work that have made us 100-years strong.