Raising The Bar
Heeding the call to a greater good
- Education and Counseling
- Champlain Housing Trust
Our services go well beyond helping people find affordable housing."
Eric Hoffman had planned a career as an attorney, focusing on environmental law and justice. Things turned out differently.
Born in Tucson, Arizona, Eric grew up out West and attended law school in California. After graduating, he and his wife moved to Burlington, where they had many life-long friends. Eric passed the Vermont bar exam, clerked with a sole practitioner focused on real estate and land use, and even considered opening his own practice. But after his clerkship ended he was having second thoughts.
“I heard the calling to the greater good, and I wanted a position where I could help people truly in need,” he says.
After volunteering briefly with Law Line of Vermont, he interviewed for a position with the Champlain Housing Trust and joined the team in 2013.
As a Home Education Counselor, Eric meets with people one-on-one and in groups to help them address credit and money management issues and navigate the housing market in order to “attain and sustain a safe and affordable home.”
For some of his clients, sporadic or seasonal employment can make it difficult to manage finances, since they don’t know when or where their next paycheck is coming from. For New American families, support services often end after a brief period of time, so Eric works with them to develop good financial habits and build credit as they find affordable housing and establish roots.
At any given time Eric may be working with tenants, homeowners, perspective buyers, as well as people facing homelessness. The range of financial counseling can cover the basics such as “what is a savings account?” and budgeting, to credit building and repair, debt relief and financial planning. He also serves as a guide and advocate, connecting his clients to additional community resources that they may not have been aware of.
“It’s been very rewarding to offer people practical advice when they need it most,” he says. He feels that the highest compliment is when a client or customer calls back for follow-up after they have leased an apartment or purchased a home, because that means that he has been able to build a relationship of trust and they feel comfortable reaching out.
“Our services go well beyond helping people find affordable housing,” he explains. “I am most inspired when I can help someone in a tangible way. For example, I meet with a lot of people who are struggling with high student debt. In many cases this presents a true barrier to home ownership or finding an affordable apartment.”
Eric shares that he was touched by his meeting with a couple struggling with burdensome student debt. They originally came to Champlain Housing Trust for help in the home purchase process. After discussing their options, he continued to meet with them and they were able to find ways to reduce their monthly student loan payments as well as bringing their defaulted loans back into good standing. They were later pre-approved for a mortgage through a local credit union and continued the path to homeownership.
“Stable housing and financial capabilities are inexorably linked,” Eric says.
On Eric’s bookshelf is the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck. She writes about creating behavioral change, moving from a “fixed” mindset (thinking you’re stuck in a situation) to an “open” or growth mindset (where you believe change is possible).
“Just the change in perspective can make a big difference,” he explains. Eric encourages people to consider CHT an ongoing resource, making use of the HomeOwnership Center’s services as “a path to the American dream.”