Denise Nation, like many others struggling to keep their heads above the financial waters, felt like there were a lot of “no’s” in her life.
“Growing up, I never imagined I’d be able to own a home,” said Denise. “I never had a checking or savings account and had no idea how to budget. I always heard from my parents that we couldn’t afford things.”
Tired of the vicious cycle of poverty that consumed her family and driven by the desire to create a better future for her children, Denise – a single mom – enrolled into Unison Housing Partner’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program in January of 2015.
Congress created the FSS Program in 1990 to help housing assistance recipients increase their incomes and build their savings. Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) recipients contribute 30% of their income toward rent and utilities, with the voucher paying the remaining housing costs up to the public housing agency’s payment standard.
Typically, as recipients’ incomes rise, so do the rents they must pay. The FSS Program allows households whose incomes increase to place their additional rent contributions in a savings account for future use. The savings are accumulated and held in an account over a five-year period. If the tenant does not receive cash assistance and remains employed for one year, he or she can use these savings toward their financial goals.
Unison’s FSS Program provides participants like Denise the opportunity to develop goals alongside a case manager and work collaboratively to paint a picture of their future. Throughout the program, participants are encouraged to find employment, gain independence from public assistance, achieve homeownership and develop individual goals to guide their journey to financial stability.
Once enrolled in the FSS Program, Denise’s first priority was to learn how to manage her money. With some guidance from a financial coach, she learned how to manage her income through budgeting while also building her credit score, an important step in becoming a homeowner.
With FSS Program resources and a determinedness to pursue her personal financial goals, Denise was able to secure stable employment. During her time in the program, she enrolled in Redstone College and earned her Associate’s Degree in Aviation Electronics. Immediately upon graduation, she received a job offer from Lockheed Martin and now finds herself working at Ball Aerospace, which she says is her greatest achievement.
“Being on the FSS Program has helped me because it encouraged me take more responsibility, keep track of my goals and held me accountable for meeting each one,” she said. “It has also helped me break the cycle of public assistance for my kids.”
Denise, now swimming through the waters she once felt she was drowning in, relinquished her Section 8 housing voucher in July 2019, making her a graduate of the FSS Program six-months early.
“From the time I started the program to the time I am now exiting, I became independent, focused on my future and continuously striving for more and more in my life,” remarked Denise. “I am now making sure my kids will learn from my hard work and I am teaching them that they can accomplish anything in their lives.”
In addition to all of Denise’s successes, Unison provided her with a $21,380 escrow check based on her stable employment and financially stability.
“This program has pushed me and motivated me to move up and on with my life and provided me assistance while climbing my way up to where I want to be,” said Denise. “This program has given me all the help I could have asked for.”
Since 2007, Unison has distributed nearly $400,000 in savings to FSS Program participants throughout Adams County.