Nelson Castillo: Building a Home in NYC

Nelson Castillo moved to New York City a few years back to find a better-paying job so he could support his wife and two children, who stayed behind. He found work at an airport terminal and was able to begin sending money to his family. Even though his income was enough for their daily needs, Nelson had a large amount of debt that he wanted to pay off. He also wanted to increase his credit score, thinking of a mortgage loan in the near future. A friend’s recommendation led Nelson to Urban Upbound in early March 2020.

Soon after, the pandemic hit New York. Nelson’s finances and goals were severely impacted. His work hours at the airport were reduced at first, and then in September, he was furloughed altogether. Nelson’s plan to fly his family to New York also needed to be postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions.

After he was furloughed, Nelson thought he would need to pause his efforts to fix his credit and pay off his student loans. But he continued working with our financial counselor, who assisted Nelson in applying for Unemployment Insurance while he searched for a new job. After overcoming a few challenges at the beginning of his application, Nelson was able to receive his unemployment benefits.

Goal-oriented and a hard worker, it didn’t take long for Nelson to find another job. Nelson started working at a warehouse in eastern Queens and was able to return his focus to his financial goals. Never missing an appointment, he and the Urban Upbound financial counselor met periodically to strategize how to take care of his federal and private student loans and to develop a payment plan. Nelson now follows a budget that allows him to save regularly and he continues to monitor his credit, especially because he is on a mission to find and own a home.

Initially disappointed that he could not see his wife and children as they had planned before the pandemic, Nelson’s family was able to fly to New York when cases began going down. Nelson was so thankful to be able to reunite with his family again, even though he admitted that he could hardly recognize his now-11-year-old daughter when they met.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard for everyone, but parents have had to endure additional challenges. Follow our Instagram page to read more stories or subscribe to our newsletter. You can also donate to keep our services running for the New Yorkers who need them the most!

A collection of stories around NYC’s public housing communities curated by Urban Upbound, a non-profit organization with a mission to break cycles of poverty.