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The Wilson Housing Authority was recently awarded a $66,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund its Family Self-Sufficiency Program for 2020.
The Wilson Housing Authority has had a FSS program for more than two decades, and for the last eight years it’s been overseen by Cathy Kent, the housing authority’s resident services director and FSS coordinator.
The income-based FSS program is open to anyone in the housing authority’s public housing and Section 8 voucher programs who qualifies and is interested in increasing earned incomes, reducing dependency on public assistance and rental subsidies and willing to work to achieve a set of goals agreed to by themselves and the housing authority.
The voluntary program rewards its participants by establishing an interest-bearing escrow account that grows based on increases in the family’s earned income during the five-year term of the FSS contract. The money is then available to the family or individual at the end of the five years as long as participants have completed the goals they agreed to.
To help participants achieve their educational and workplace goals, the Wilson Housing Authority partners with the Wilson County Department of Social Services, Wilson Community College, the Wilson County Public Library, the Wilson County Joblink Career Center and numerous other community agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide services and programs for them.
The program’s goals are to further participants’ education, help them gain marketable skills and otherwise increase their income potential through new employment or by advancing in their current workplace.
Currently, more than 50 families and individuals are enrolled in the Wilson Housing Authority’s FSS program.
Kent said she enjoys working with the families and individuals in FSS and calls the program a “great stepping stone.”
“I enjoy helping them achieve success and move to the next level,” she said.
Kent has helped numerous families become more financially independent since she started overseeing the program, including four families who were able to leave the housing authority with enough money saved to purchase their own home.
Kelly Vick, Wilson Housing Authority president and CEO, said the program is a great resource and encourages everyone in public housing and Section 8 to explore joining it.
“The FSS program provides our residents an opportunity to increase their education, expand job opportunities and increase earned income while providing a saving mechanism that can be used to purchase their own home,” Vick said.
2020 marks the national FSS program’s 25th anniversary.