‘A sense of independence': Program shows public housing residents a path to prosperity

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


Ezrosta Faison just wants to give thanks.

Cathy Kent and the Wilson Housing Authority Family Self-Sufficiency Program turned her life around.

“I am just very thankful to her and everything she did for me and my family,” Faison said.

Faison entered public housing a decade ago after a rare degenerative eye disease robbed her of her sight and left her without the ability to perform her job as a certified nurse assistant at Wilson Medical Center.

“The doctor told me that I was going to be blind so I couldn’t work anymore,” Faison said. “So next I am losing my apartment and losing everything that I had.”

When she first moved into public housing, she couldn’t see.

“I was legally blind,” Faison said. “I had to scrunch my eyes real, real close just to see anything. I couldn’t really function.”

Sightless, Faison was having a hard time supporting herself and her two teenage daughters.

Medicaid paid for five corrective surgeries on her eyes.

“When I went to Wilson Community College to try to get back in class, I didn’t have enough money to pay for it,” Faison said. “I was just sitting there at home wondering what I could do next to better me and my kids.”

She reached out to Kent, who is the Family Self-Sufficiency program coordinator for the Wilson Housing Authority.

“When I needed her the most, she was right there by my side,” Faison said. “Once I talked to Ms. Kent and got everything prioritized, everything just came together.”

Kent said that Faison qualified to enter the federally sponsored FSS program because she wanted to get out of public housing, she wanted to gain certifications to improve herself and she wanted to be self-sufficient.

“She was only with us a short time, but she accomplished all of her goals,” Kent said. “Her goals were to be re-certified with CNA, to get an increase in pay and to move out of public housing, so she completed all of her goals in an 18-month period.”

Faison recently wrote the housing authority personnel a lengthy note of thanks for helping her family out.

“I was just reflecting on my life, where I was and where I am now,” Faison said. “When I was going through something, she was there for me. A lot of people don’t know that she is here to help us. She is going to push you in the right direction you need to go so you can help yourself and help your family.”

Faison said that once the ball got moving it went on to where she is now, which is in her own home and employed in a new job as a CNA.

“On April the 23rd of 2017, my life just did a 360,” Faison said. “I was stuck for a long time. I didn’t know what to do. All this stuff went down in nine months. I have got my car. I have my house. I’ve got my job. I’m back in school again. Ms. Kent was my angel. I just thank God for this lady right here because she just put me on the right path to make my dreams come true.”

According to Faison, Kent got in her corner to help her do this step by step.

“Just see what you have to offer. See what you need. See where you need to better yourself,” Faison said. “Don’t look at it as five years. Look at it as six months or three months. What can you do right now to change your life? Get whatever you need to start. Start somewhere.”

Faison said she now wants to go on to get her licensed practical nurse certification.

“I’m going to get it,” Faison said. “I keep going up. Every day is something new, something different. I just thank God for that one phone call to Ms. Kent. It just kept going from there. If you really want something and you have got the right people behind you, you are going to succeed. It’s no way for you not to succeed.”

Kent said she helps about 50 people each year in the FSS program, and many of them succeed and leave public housing.

The Wilson Housing Authority has 716 units in three locations throughout Wilson.

Currently there are 157 people on the waiting list for public housing and that number has been increasing, according to Valinda Belton, senior property manager.

“Being a single mom, times got hard,” Faison said. “But public housing gave me a home when I couldn’t afford my own place. This afforded me a sense of independence from my mom and dad. With the tools that have been given to me by the programs offered to public housing residents, I have become self-sufficient and I am deeply appreciative.”

To contact Cathy Kent ant the Wilson Housing Authority, call 252-291-2245, ext. 245, or visit the WHA office at 301 Nash St. NE in downtown Wilson.