The District of Columbia Housing Authority officials joined the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,  and local residents working on becoming more self-sufficient, to celebrate the Family Self-Sufficiency Program’s 25th anniversary.

During the event held at Lydia’s House in Southwest D.C., HUD Secretary Ben Carson also announced an award of $75 million to continue helping public housing and voucher customers who participate in the successful program. .

“A necessary part of what we do is to help families move beyond HUD assistance by providing the tools they need to become self-sufficient,” said Secretary Ben Carson to the crowd of current FSS participants and FSS graduates. “For 25 years, HUD and our local partners have been connecting residents to job training, childcare and other resources that expand their opportunities and lead them towards higher paying jobs and self-sufficiency.”   

HUD’s FSS Program helps local Public Housing Authorities to hire Service Coordinators who work directly with residents to connect them with programs and services that already exist in the local community, such as those offered at Lydia’s House.

“The program encourages innovative strategies and services that help customers achieve their goals in education, employment, homeownership and more so they and their families make progress toward achieving economic independence and housing self-sufficiency,” said DCHA Executive Director Tyrone Garrett. “I’m so delighted that you can see real life initiatives that promote this type of growth for families right here at Lydia’s House.”

As part of the secretary’s announcement, DCHA will receive $277,000 for its FSS program. DCHA has received $2.4 million towards its FSS program over the last decade.

Participants in the program sign a five-year contract that requires the head of the household to obtain employment and to set a goal of having all household members will use  limited types of public assistance after five years. Families in the FSS program have an interest-bearing escrow account established for them. The amount credited to the family's escrow account is based on increases in the family's earned income during the term of the FSS contract. If the family successfully completes its FSS contract, the family receives the escrow funds and can use them for any purpose, including debt reduction to improve credit scores, paying for educational expenses, or as a down payment on a home.

Prior to the announcement, the secretary and his staff met with a few of DCHA’s FSS graduates and DCHA staff and Lydia’s House staff to discuss how the program has helped them improve their lives and the lives of their families.

Lydia’s House has been serving the community as a HUD-approved faith-based counseling agency and a District of Columbia funded housing counseling agency since 1990. They offer social services, emotional support, and educational resources for low-income and at-risk families at every stage of the poverty cycle to help those most in need.

Theresa Ford’s path to Lydia’s House finally came after years of being homeless and living in shelters with her two daughters. She was able to secure a voucher in 2013 and learned of the FSS program from her cousin, she told the crowd. By 2014, she had secured employment and knew she wanted to join the FSS program and to set a goal of buying her own home. She attended financial literacy classes and learned ways to clean up her credit at Lydia’s House. She used her escrow account to put a down payment on a home for her two daughters and her mother and she no longer receives subsidy assistance.

The day she got the keys to her new home was “the most heartfelt moment in my life,” said Ford, who plans on going back to school this January. “My kids and my mother have a stable home with rooms of their own.”

She continued, “I was able to reach my goals without the voucher and be able to successfully manage [my finances] to get my home.”

Pastor Gary Hill took another path with the FSS program—he became an entrepreneur.

“I had a dream to become a business owner,” said Hill, who said his plans were sidetracked due to substance abuse.

He took the time to get clean and sober, he said, and then signed the contract to join the FSS program. That contract taught him accountability and hard work, he said.

“There were days I felt like giving up. Things weren’t working fast enough,” he said. “FSS coordinators and staff always encouraged me, always inspired me. They found things in me I didn’t know I had myself.”

He increased his credit score. He began a savings account. The FSS program gave him the “tools to succeed,” and Lydia’s House connected him to resources that further supported him, he said.

Hill took his escrow account and used it to start Exodus Treatment Center 10 years ago. His business is now onsite at two different DCHA properties, Woodland Terrace and Lincoln Heights.

“I wanted to give back to the community what this program gave back to us,” he said.

Pastor Patrice Sheppard, co-founder of Lydia’s House, said Hill and Ford were just two examples of what she and her husband wanted to achieve when they began their organization. They wanted to take the mystery out of finances and to help families build generational wealth.

Usually with government-funded programs the focus is on the statistics and numbers to support the program, however, “today we had the opportunity to put a face to the number and a heart to the number,” Sheppard said. 

FSS graduates, Lydia's House co-founders, Secretary Ben Carson, and DCHA Executive Director Tyrone Garrett discuss FSS.
Secretary Carson and FSS Graduate Tricia Richardson
FSS Graduate Theresa Ford
Office of Resident Services Director Larry Williams, Secretary Ben Carson, and FSS Manager Ronald Fisher
Last modified: 12/18/2017 1:43:44 PM