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Closing in on a dream

Woman receives check, nears homeownership

Woman receives check, nears homeownership

July 11, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

For nearly four years, Jacqueline Ballard has been working toward her dream of homeownership. On Thursday, she got a very sizable leg up on that end.

"I'm this close to becoming a homeowner," Ballard said, holding two fingers slightly apart and smiling broadly as she received a check for $20,286.52 from the Hagerstown Housing Authority.

Ballard, 36, has graduated from the Family Self Sufficiency Program administered by the Housing Authority since 1992. Having fulfilled all the necessary requirements, Ballard earned her diploma and the check, both of which were presented to her by Ted Shankle, executive director of the agency at 35 W. Baltimore St.

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An employee of Garden State Tanning, Ballard has been working closely with her Housing Authority case manager, Tacy Myers, in the voluntary program for Section 8 renters since November 1999.

Under the Section 8 program, rental assistance payments are made directly to private landlords by the Housing Authority on behalf of the clients, who must meet certain income level/family size requirements to qualify for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds.

Since 1999, as Ballard's rent increased due to employment, the difference between her beginning rent and the raised rent was placed into an account each month, according to Dianne Rudisill, director of family services at the Housing Authority.

At the completion of the program and if the resident has met all the program requirements, that escrow money is awarded to the resident.

Rudisill said Ballard could use the money to buy a car or whatever else she needs. But in Ballard's case, she never has deviated from her original dream of owning a home.

"We had monthly meetings so Jackie could develop her goals and stay on track," Myers said.

Myers said Ballard was an enthusiastic participant who worked diligently to improve her credit rating, manage her money and add to her education by taking courses at Hagerstown Community College.

"I'm working toward a career as a nail technician," Ballard said.

Myers currently has 42 clients enrolled in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program. All must either be working or in educational pursuits. Nine are full-time college students, she said.

With her check in hand, Ballard already is eyeing one of the single-family homes under construction in the new West End development known as Gateway Crossing. She and her four children, who range in age from 3 to 16, now are living in an apartment on Washington Avenue.

Because the new house is in the same part of Hagerstown, Ballard said her children won't have to change schools. They also will be able to attend the same clubs and stay close to their friends.

"It is a blessing," Ballard said. "I feel so good because it is an accomplishment - I'm getting somewhere in my life."

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