Programs help clients achieve self-sufficiency

Posted 10/13/09

Thanks to the Family Self Sufficiency Program, Cynthia McDougald’s dream of moving from being on rent assistance to being a homeowner soon will be …

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Programs help clients achieve self-sufficiency


Thanks to the Family Self Sufficiency Program, Cynthia McDougald’s dream of moving from being on rent assistance to being a homeowner soon will be a reality.

“I am a single mom with six kids who used to live in a motel room so I never though I’d have a chance to own my own home,” she said. “It seemed like just something that would happen in my dreams. But I volunteered for the sufficiency program and now, I feel I am getting close enough to buying my own home that I can feel it and smell it.”

The Family Self Sufficiency Program falls under the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and was established as an encouragement to communities to provide the opportunity for families on rent assistance to achieve their economic dependence, including buying a home.

The program began in 1990 as a successor to a similar federal program called Operation Bootstrap. In the mid-1990s, Marty Mosman signed a contract to coordinate the self-sufficiency program for Englewood, Sheridan and Douglas County. She is paid with federal dollars that flow to the Englewood Housing Authority so the authority can write the check.

The self-sufficiency program works with families who have all or part of the rent paid with federal dollars by means of what are called Section 8 vouchers that go directly to the property owner. Locally, the Section 8 program for Englewood, Sheridan and Douglas County is administered and managed by the Englewood Housing Authority.

“We work with about 700 Section 8 voucher clients and there is about a year-long waiting list to get into the voucher program,” said Dawn Shepherd, Englewood Housing Authority director. “All who receive Section 8 vouchers are eligible to voluntarily be part of the self sufficiency program. But, we know the sufficiency program isn’t for all our clients. Still, about 10 percent of the voucher clients volunteer to take part in the sufficiency program.”

Shepherd said the program is a shining example of providing the assistance so people can get back on their feet. She also said much of the program’s success is Mosman’s dedication.

“She is a caring individual with a real heart to help others,” she said. “Her work is a big reason I feel this sufficiency program is one of the best in the state if not in the nation.”

Mosman, an Englewood High School graduate, said she was hired at the sufficiency program coordinator a few days after she retired. She said usually she maintains 55 to 60 people on the sufficiency program at all times. It required a lot of effort from the clients and she said, over the year, about 10 percent to 15 percent of the clients decide to drop out of the program.

“The first step to volunteer for the program is completing the application,” she said. “Using the information from the application and an interview, we set a series of goals and determine the next depending needed to achieve those goals.”

The list of possible client needs could include assistance in finding affordable child care, household skill training as well as providing employment counseling and, if needed, substance abuse treatment or counseling.

A major step is helping the client find employment or possible move up to a better job. Currently more than 90 percent of the sufficiency program clients have jobs.

“The job is important because the amount of Section 8 assistance is based on income. As the income goes up, the amount of assistance declines,” Mosman said. “However, in the sufficiency program, the Section 8 assistance doesn’t change. But, as the client’s salary increases, the client’s rent remains unchanged and the amount they would have had to pay in additional rent goes instead into an account that draws interest.”

The money from the account can be used for education or, in many cases, to help the client become a homeowner.

She said the process to becoming a homeowner doesn’t happen overnight. The average stay on the sufficiency program is three years.

Part of the process includes working to improve the client’s credit scores and to help them get additional education. Since Mosman has been the coordinator, 43 clients have earned their GED certificates, 25 have earned vocational certificates, 35 have received associate degrees, nine have earned a bachelor’s degree and one client has earned a master’s degree.

Another success story is that, since 1997, 34 sufficiency program clients like Sunshine Cross have become homeowners and, to date, none have lost their homes to foreclosure.

She leaned back in a comfortable chair in her Englewood home and talked about her experience in the sufficiency program.

“It was only about five years ago that my three children and I were homeless,” she said. “Fortunately, I was able to get on the Section 8 rent assistant program here in Englewood, but even then, I felt hopeless, like there was no way out of my situation. That was when I met Marty. She told me about the self-sufficiency program and I decided it was for me.”

She said the program provided her the hope for success and the right tools to help make the hope a reality.

“It was like baby steps, one step at a time,” Cross said. “I can’t tell you the times I got frustrated and said I was going to just give up. But Marty wouldn’t hear of it and her encouragement helped me keep going.”

She said, after 2 1/2 years in the program, she was able to achieve home ownership.

“I got to that point and it didn’t seem real,” she said. “It just seemed too good to be true. But it was and we moved into this house which is our home now.”

But Cross didn’t stop working toward goals that included earning a college degree. Now, she is a single class away from earning her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She also is serving an internship with the Jefferson county Probation Department and, when she receives her degree, she hoped to get a job with the department serving as a probation officer for young boys and girls so she can help them.

“This has been almost like a dream,” she said. “The program was so much more than I every expected. It wasn’t easy and there were rough spots but it all is worth it because my children and I love our home, we love our community and I can’t begin to thank the program and Marty for helping me reach this point in my life.”


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