It took five years of commitment and motivation. But in late January, graduates of one housing authority’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program got to celebrate success – which, for some, meant leaving housing assistance behind.
On January 30, the Linn-Benton Housing Authority in Oregon held a graduation ceremony for successful participants of the FSS program to recognize the hard work these families put in. Staff also hoped the ceremony might inspire other families who still have work to do before they can achieve self-sufficiency.
The five-year voluntary program begins when interested families fill out an application and meet with coordinators to decide what they’d like to achieve by the end of the program. That could mean earning a high school or college degree or working toward homeownership. But the goal is to get off public assistance.
One family participating in the program got a zero-interest home through a partnership with the First Story home project. Another is making plans to purchase a home now that the mother has graduated from her nursing program.
There’s also a financial incentive to participating in the FSS program. That’s where the Valley Individual Development Account, or VIDA, comes in. They offer a match saving program to help families build assets. For every $1 a family saves, VIDA will contribute $3. Participants also have an escrow account, whose savings will grow as the family’s earned income rises.
“We receive our primary funding from HUD through the Family Self-Sufficiency NOFA,” says Anna Benson, Section 8 case manager for the Linn-Benton Housing Authority. “We receive a small amount of Administrative Fees from CASA [Community Assistance and Shelter Corporation] of Oregon for administering the VIDA program as well.”
This is the sixth year Linn-Benton Housing Authority has held graduation for their successful FSS families. Sixteen families graduated from the program this year. All together, Benson says, those families’ incomes increased by $383,058 from the time they started the program until graduation. She says 10 of those families no longer need Section 8 assistance – in fact, they’re off assistance completely.