Elliott Clark served two tours in Vietnam, worked as a cook at a Kansas City restaurant, and owned a home with his wife, Aquila. Three days before Aquila was eligible for full benefits at her new job, she slipped and broke her ankle. Though Elliott had been a faithful, good-standing client of his bank for years, he was not approved for the loan he needed to pay the hospital bill. With no other option, he turned to a payday loan to foot the bill.

The massive interest rate of the loan dug Elliott into an even deeper financial hole. That one payday loan multiplied into five. He accumulated $50,000 in interest from only $2,500 worth of loans. Elliott and his wife lost their car and their home. He eventually received a lump-sum disability check from the VA, and managed to pay off the debt collectors.

Communities Creating Opportunity connected with Elliott and disseminated his story. He was featured in TIME, ABC News, and local media such as The Kansas City Star, significantly raising awareness of the predatory lending crisis in poor minority areas of American municipalities. CCO, committed to empowering residents personally affected by injustices, also developed Elliott as a leader. He became co-chair of CCO’s “Stop the Debt Trap” campaign in 2016.

Elliott is now a staunch advocate against the exorbitant interest rates predatory lenders offer folks with no better option for a small-dollar, short-term loan. “I want to tell people now that hey, your voice has to be heard because if you don’t say something then you are always suffering in silence; there’s too many people here to help you,” Elliott said.