Ms. Diana Pack, Kentucky State Office, HUD
Ms. Nancy Scull, FSS Coordinator, Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery
Ms. Donna Robinson, Volunteer Mentoring of Montgomery County, MD
Mr. Ron Ziegler, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
The session focused on HUDs Family Self-Sufficiency
(FSS) Program, which promotes local strategies to enable Section 8 and/or
public housing families to achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency.
This session focused on how the program works, recent changes to FSS, and
local FSS success stories.
The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program
is an innovative, federally mandated program that helps Section 8 and Public
Housing residents achieve economic independence over a five year period.
The program is completely voluntary and is supported by donations, grants,
and volunteers. Participants work with case managers to assess their strengths,
identify barriers, set goals and achieve them. The FSS Program also allows
participants access to the resources needed to develop job skills and ultimately
achieve economic independence. Furthermore, FSS participants who increase
their earned income can to place a portion of any rent increases into an
escrow savings account. When the participant achieves their goal of self-sufficiency
(i.e., when they no longer need welfare assistance, food stamps, or medical
assistance) within the contact period, they will graduate and receive the
money in the escrow savings account (plus any interest earned). Recent changes
to the program mandated by the Public Housing Reform Act (PHRA) include
reserved funding allocations, redefinition of the term "welfare assistance,"
and changes in portability.
New Jerseys Department of Community Affairs (DCA) FSS Program has
achieved 92 percent of its required 1,325 FSS participants. A total of 1,136
families are currently active and 65 participants have completed the program
successfully since October of 1999. The DCA expects to achieve 100 percent
of its requirement this fiscal year.
The Montgomery County Housing Opportunity Commissions 5 year (FSS)
Program uses volunteer mentors to help low-income, usually single-parent,
families who live in Housing Opportunities Housing Facilities, achieve self
sufficiency in five years. Mentors are trained and asked to make a one year
commitment to spend just an hour a week (supervised by a professional case
manager) to help the head of the household plan and achieve long term goals.
The primary objective is to find full-time employment and to move off temporary
cash assistance. Since 1993, the Program has more than 100 mentors and has
served more than 440 families. Of that a total of 187 have graduated, 54
of who have purchased homes. The average earned income of FSS graduates
has increased from $6,618 to $25,365 annually, 88 percent have increased
their earned incomes and most are setting aside money in an escrow savings
account. Thirty-one percent of the participants have completed college,
technical training, or GED and 80 percent of all currently enrolled FSS
families are employed.