From Homeless Shelter Resident to Homeowner

Forget about owning a home, just getting her two kids and herself into a home was the dream for Hiwatha Coleman. Coleman, an American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2727 member, was homeless and working hard just to keep a roof over her children’s head, even if that roof was shared with many other people.

“I lived in a shelter for battered women with my two children,” Coleman said. “In order to pay for my room and board I had to do chores. One week it was bathroom duty, one week it was kitchen duty, and then cooking for everyone in the shelter. I was on a curfew. My children and I had to live in the communal living space for 30 days before we could move to a private room. It was so stressful because I didn’t know who was sleeping next to my children.” 

Coleman, an AFGE member since 1991, was at work one day and perusing the AFGE website when the Union Plus benefits page caught her attention. She noticed the Union Plus Mortgage program and reached out to her union representative to get more information. Despite the fact that she had been saving to get her family out of the shelter, she wasn’t sure she would be able to actually buy a house. 

“This was my first home purchase. I never thought I would have the stability to become a homeowner,” Coleman recalls. “The financial education and follow up calls I received from my union representative and Wells Fargo loan officer were extremely helpful. The $500 award I received from Union Plus after closing allowed me to purchase items for my house like my lawn equipment. I went into the home having ownership of things because of the Union Plus benefits.” 

The Union Plus Mortgage program, with financing provided by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, is packed with special benefits designed to meet the needs of active and retired union members, as well as their parents and children, who want to buy or refinance a home. Some of the benefits of the Union Plus Mortgage program include:   

  • Hardship Assistance  Union Plus Mortgage Assistance helps members and their families who are unemployed, recently disabled, on strike or locked out make their mortgage payments with interest-free loans and grants. Mortgage Assistance has provided almost $10 million to help members keep their loans current and stay in their homes.   
  • $500 Award  Eligible union members and their families who close on a new purchase or refinance loan with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage will receive a $500 Wells Fargo My Mortgage GiftSM award after closing (for use at participating retailers)  
  • Incentive for First-Time Home Buyers  Union members who are first-time buyers can apply for a $500 First-Time Home Award from Union Plus. To apply, active or retired union members who used the Union Plus Mortgage program to purchase their first home simply fill out an application and provide a short, written description of their Union Plus Mortgage program experience and why home ownership matters.   

“Buying this home is a dream come true,” Coleman said. “Every day I wake up and I can’t believe something like this happened to me. I’ve been on the bottom and God has blessed me to come out of it and Union Plus was a vehicle to do that.    

“I am a benefit coordinator for my union and encourage my members to take advantage of these benefits. These benefits are a blessing to so many people.”              

The Union Plus Mortgage program has provided $43.6 billion in mortgages to help more than 200,000 union members and their families buy or refinance a home. To learn more about the Union Plus Mortgage program, visit   

In addition to the Union Plus Mortgage program, Union Plus provides a full array of consumer discounts, services and special programs, including educational scholarships, to enrich the lives of working families. To learn more about Union Plus discounts and programs, please visit

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