The Hot Springs Housing Authority recently graduated six members of its Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
The five-year, voluntary program, established though the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is open to families that receive Section 8 and public housing assistance through the housing authority.
The program provides activities, programs, resources and referrals to help residents provide economically for their families, according to Tammy Brown, Resident Opportunities and Self-Sufficiency coordinator.
Program participants can take advantage of budgeting classes, education programs, receive help with resume writing and interview preparation. The program works with participants in group settings as well as tailoring the program to meet individual goals.
Taking part in the program does not jeopardize a family's housing assistance, according to promotional material. Residents who do not participate in the program, though, miss out on the wider range of opportunities available to FSS participants.
As part of the program, the head of a household enters into a five-year contract with the housing authority. Working with a FSS coordinator, the individual sets employment and educational goals, and the coordinator helps the family obtain services and support needed to reach those goals.
Brown said one of the biggest benefits of the program is an escrow savings account. When FSS participants get an increase in earnings, either through a new job or advancement in a job, the cost of rent rises accordingly. The housing authority places funding to match that increase in an escrow savings account in the participant's name. At the end of the program, the accumulated funds go to the graduate. When they graduate, the participant has money they can put toward homeownership, a new car or continued education. If the participant does not complete the program, they forfeit the funds.
"It is all about betterment and not just staying in the same situation," said Richard Herrington Jr., the housing authority's executive director. Herrington told the graduates he lived in public housing when he was younger.
Program supporters include Regions Bank, Diamond Lakes Federal Credit Union and attorney G. Ben Bancroft. The current members of the board of commissioners are Joyce Craft, Charlene Claye, Kathy Muse and Lee Murphey.
The graduates recognized at a recent luncheon in their honor were Samantha Crum, Lucretia Harrell, LaQuonda Harrington, Renea Howell, Larenda McNeal and Catherine Morgan.
Herrington, Norma Newman and George Griepp each delivered words of encouragement to the new graduates. Newman was the keynote speaker.
"This program has enabled me to go to school and get an education and helped me provide for my daughter," Harrington said, by helping her save money toward a home for her family.Local on 10/25/2015