Graduates of Family Self Sufficiency program celebrate financial independence
Office of Communications – Chicago Housing Authority
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CHICAGO (Sept. 20, 2021) - About 50 Chicago Housing Authority residents who participated in the Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program received their certificates of completion Friday at the first FSS graduation ceremony in two years at the Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center.
FSS is one of CHA’s premier wealth-building programs and provides financial incentives to participants as they reach their goals. Upon goal completion, specified amounts based on the goal are deposited into their FSS savings accounts. The savings are paid out within 60 days of program completion.
Friday’s graduates – there were a total of almost 140 in the class – received a total of $800,000 in escrow savings. The highest graduate payout for 2021 was about $20,000, and the average was $6,200. There were 11 residents who purchased homes with their savings, eight that transitioned off housing subsidy, and 18 that obtained new employment.
“This is a major achievement,” said CHA CEO Tracey Scott. “It is about what you have done to invest in yourself and your families and in your children. They say a journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step. You have taken the first step - and the second, the third and the fourth. Keep taking those steps. Keep taking the journey to your dreams. And we at CHA are here to support you in that journey however we can.”
Kathryn Socha, Director of Asset Building Programs for FSS program contractor Heartland Human Care Services, said: “The Family Self Sufficiency graduation was a highlight for everyone who touches the program. Hearing the participants’ stories of how they overcame obstacles to accomplish their dreams was inspirational and was such an uplift after so many months of isolation. We are so gratified to partner with CHA on this program.”
FSS participants receive monetary payouts for successfully completing goals, such as earning a degree or starting a new career. The savings are set aside in an escrow account and the money accrued is disbursed at the time of successful completion of the five-year program. The money can then be used for whatever they choose, including down payments on homes or paying off debt.
Among those who completed the program was Aeisha Moore, who was laid off last year when the store she worked at closed because of the pandemic. She was unemployed for six months. She and her 15-year-old son were in uncertain times.
So she started a mobile beautician business: “Moore Beauty.” She has built the business up to 50 clients.
She could not have survived the pandemic and getting laid off without the help she received from FSS, where she completed 17 financial education empowerment workshops and completed the program. It helped her get educated about building savings, credit and obtaining loans.
“Had I not graduated from the program this year, I’d be behind on my bills,” she said. “But since I was in the program, I had money on the side and was able to keep up when things were down.”
Other graduates Friday earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, purchased homes and started their own businesses.