The Housing Authority of Glasgow received honors at the Kentucky Housing Association Mid-Year Conference, held Feb. 7-10 in Louisville.
The Louisville Field Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development presented the housing authority with the 2010 Family Self-Sufficiency Program of the Year Award, out of the 28 agencies in Kentucky that administer the program.
“It came as a surprise to us, especially because we are a smaller operation,” said Sheri Lee, executive operations officer for the housing authority. “This means a lot to the families to become a part of society and we’re happy receive [the award].”
The FSS program was started in 2007 with a grant from HUD, and the majority of those that participate in this voluntary program are single mother households, according to FSS Coordinator Paula Brooks.
Participants are asked if they would like to join the program when they move into subsidized housing, and those that elect to participate discuss personal goals with Brooks. Every action plan is different, from getting an education or getting a job to becoming a better parent, and they sign a 5-year contract with the housing authority in which they must complete their goals and not be receiving welfare assistance for 12 months. They don’t need to stay all five years if they don’t need to, but the contract gives them a set amount of time to see their goals through, Brooks said.
Brooks teaches classes on budgeting, credit diligence, resume-building and conducts daily job searches for those in the program, and she has heard many good things from those that graduated from the program.
“It’s mainly about accountability [for the participants]. We let them know some things are available to them, like their GED and education about credit and rent payments, that they just didn’t know about for one reason or another,” Brooks said.
More than 50 percent of those in the program are now enrolled in some form of higher education, and throughout the years that Brooks has been there, she has seen participants get jobs, build up enough savings in an escrow account to buy a house and many completed education they didn’t know they could access before the program showed them the methods of applying.
According to a release by HUD, the housing authority, established in 1958, was awarded program of the year because of its 27-person voluntary program, in which the majority of participants have an escrow account with a positive balance and are enrolled in higher education programs. The program has helped 12 families transition to non-subsidized housing and create self-sufficient, welfare-free families.
“The final goal of everyone is to be gainfully employed based on their education, training, skills and available job opportunities,” Brooks said.
The program assists public housing clients, as well as those eligible for the Section 8 Rental Voucher, a federal program that “increases affordable housing choices for very low-income households by allowing families to choose privately-owned rental housing,” according to the HUD website. The tenants, usually with income 80 percent lower than the area median, pay 30 percent of their income and the public housing authority pays the rest. Tenants can choose housing with rent higher than the established fair market rent and pay the difference, or they may choose rent lower than the FMR and keep the difference.
The housing authority currently offers 367 apartments at six sites in the area. 297 of the apartments are in the Glasgow city limits, including on Bunche, Sam Terry, South Morgan and Shamrock Drives and the other 70 are at the E.P. Terry Estates and Schoolhouse Drive sites in Cave City.
The FSS just received their yearly grant that is based on last year’s performance. With this grant, the HAG will continue to educate participants and welcome new ones into the program.
“The sky’s the limit,” Lee said. “As long as there are participants, we’ll be here.”
The honor bestowed by the HUD is a proud one for Brooks, but she says it’s a testament to those that participate.
“The real winners are the residents who go through this program,” Brooks said.
The Louisville field office of HUD presents awards for excellence in management to several housing agencies, including small, medium and large public housing authority, housing choice voucher agency of the year and resident initiative program of the year along with the FSS award.