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Federal grant targets self-sufficiency for Wichita Housing Authority clients

1/6/2014
Dale Goter, Government Relations Manager, 316-371-0134 or Mary K. Vaughn, 316-462-3700  | dgoter@wichita.gov or mkvaugn@wichita.gov

Federal funding has been renewed for a Wichita housing program that helps low-income families to become financially self-sufficient.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last week announced the award of $173,416 to the City of Wichita Department of Housing and Community Services.

The award renews funding for the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, which allows the Housing Department to work with welfare agencies, schools, business and other local partners. The objective is to assist participating FSS family members to become financially independent of public housing assistance.

“The FSS program has generated some outstanding success stories among Wichita Housing Authority families,” according to Mary K. Vaughn, Wichita Public Housing and Community Services Director. “Instead of relying on public housing assistance, those successful participants now are income-producing members of society who are paying taxes instead of relying on taxpayer assistance.”

The program is available to persons who use federal Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers to help with their rent payments. Participants who volunteer for the program are encouraged to set goals such as employment, education and home ownership.

The FSS program also includes a financial incentive program that rewards participants for improving their financial position. As their income increases, participants are allowed to continue at their original rental rate. The increased rent that normally would be applied is instead set aside in an interest-bearing escrow account. If the participant completes a five-year self-improvement program, the escrow account is transferred to them.

During its multi-year history in Wichita, the FSS program has served at least 200 persons a year. Last year, 10 clients “graduated” from the program and seven had accumulated escrow savings, the largest of which was $22,000. The family income of the five clients increased sufficiently that they are no longer dependent on public subsidies.

“With this grant renewal, we’ll be able to provide the same level of service to clients and we expect to achieve the same results – a reduction in the number of families who receive publicly funded subsidies,” Vaughn said.

The grant provides funding for three staff members who provide intensive case management services. The staff is supported by a Program Coordinating Committee made up of private and non-profit community agencies which helps open doors for FSS participants.

Successful Profiles

The profiles below are from three successful FSS clients. Their identities are not disclosed for privacy reasons.

FSS Participant #1

Young mother of three enrolled in FSS in May 2011. Licensed Practical Nurse at that time, working for the Salvation Army with an annual income of $6,000.

  • During her tenure in FSS, she was referred to the KHPOP (Kansas Health Profession Opportunity Project) through the Workforce Alliance offices. As a result, she enrolled in a local community college where she completed the rest of her nursing program pre-requisites. She received her Associates Degree in Nursing, passed her state boards this past October and received a $38/hour offer for a nursing position with a large local hospital.
  • She now works fulltime and provides daycare for her children, now ages 4, 6 and 12.
  • Her future plans are to continue her education with a state university that now offers an expedited pathway to a more advanced degree. She will graduate from FSS next month.

FSS Participant #2

Single woman, 55, enrolled in FSS in December 2008.

  • At the time, she was working in a low-paying, unskilled position. Enrolled in our FSS program 12/1/2008.
  • She was laid off in May 2009 and was unable to find a replacement job due to lack of skills and the local economy.
  • With FSS assistance, she enrolled in a community college in her desired field of accounting/business administration. She also was directed to participate in “Going Places Network” (funded by WalMart) to acquire job interviewing and resume-writing skills. She was hand-picked from the audience at a training session by a corporate representative to interview for a WalMart customer service position in a brand new WalMart near her home. WalMart and Dress for Success also invited her to speak about her experience in the Going Places Network program to a group at an event later that year. She also appeared in a WalMart publication on this new program.
  • FSS staff accompanied her to the Workforce Alliance office to enroll in several job-search workshops this year.
  • The WalMart recognition, as well as her employment with them, has given her the confidence … and resume … to interview for other positions. She has recently secured employment with the Kansas Elks Training Center for the Handicapped (KETCH). She lacks only 3 credits for her Associates Degree and plans to finish the degree program this year.

FSS Participant #3

Young single mother of 3 (infant, 2 and 8), enrolled in FSS in June 2011. She is a certified phlebotomist with a high school diploma, but was unemployed at the time of her FSS enrollment.

  • The primary barrier to her success was lack of direction, encouragement and transportation.
  • After attending an initial FSS one-on-one meeting and a few FSS workshops, she was encouraged to continue her education in the nursing field.
  • She enrolled in a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) course in early 2012 and continued her community college education. She has completed all her pre-requisites with top grades. She is now enrolled in her fourth semester and plans to take her Licensed Practical Nurse board exams this summer.
  • She is completing her Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification and is seeking employment with a home health agency while she completes her LPN training.
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