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"It feels like home'

Program helps woman get her own house

Program helps woman get her own house

February 27, 2006|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

SHARPSBURG

erinc@herald-mail.com

They lived there for three years, but it wasn't until last month that the home began to look and feel like it belonged to Susie Gipe and her three daughters.

In January, she bought the three-bedroom house, and Gipe and her girls began decorating their rooms and painting the walls.

"It feels like home," Gipe said. "It's ours."

Homeownership wasn't easy for Gipe. The single mother of three was $10,000 in debt and on public assistance, but she knew she wanted to own a house.

In 1999, Gipe enrolled in The Housing Authority of Washington County's family self-sufficiency program ? a goal-setting program for those hoping to be independent of government support.

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In January, she became the first person with The Housing Authority to use Section 8 vouchers to support home ownership, Executive Director Richard B. Wilson said. Gipe, 43, who had been using Section 8 before moving into public housing, now uses Section 8 vouchers to lower her monthly mortgage payment.

"Homeownership was that one goal for her," Wilson said. "And she had her eyes on that one goal. We were able to help her."

Gipe had a few smaller goals she was able to accomplish. She wanted to get a better job, own a car and clean up her credit record. All of these were necessary, she said, before she could own a home.

In 2001, she bought a car.

It was about that time when she stopped working at a fast-food restaurant and received training at the Western Maryland Medical Center, where she now works as a geriatric nursing assistant.

"It's just anything to help better yourself," Gipe said.

The goals were part of the self-sufficiency programs.

Her case manager at Community Action Council, which Wilson said was hired by the Housing Authority to do case management, also worked with Gipe on a budget.

This, she said, meant sacrifice.

"You give commitment to a budget," she said.

She closely monitored how much money she was making with how much money she had to pay each month for bills and other expenses.

"It was hard," she said. "But you're going step by step, getting there to reach your goal. It's a lot of work, dedication, time and sacrifice."

Once Gipe successfully got herself out of debt, she was able to purchase the house. Gipe was eligible for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program, Wilson said.

The department provided Gipe's first mortgage.

"They loan her the money," he said. "And she is making monthly payments to Rural Development."

Community Action Council also gave Gipe some money to lower the overall cost of the purchase, and she received Maryland grant money, CAC Executive Director David G. Jordan said.

"It really takes a very dedicated person," said Bonnie Rohrer, Rural Development community development manager.

Jordan said that while Gipe should be credited with her success, her accomplishment is also a testament to the organizations involved.

"This represents the fact that the Housing Authority is really trying to use all of the tools at its disposal to help families make this transition to self-sufficiency," Wilson said.

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