Grant to help families become more independent

Hagerstown Housing Authority gets $100,125 to finance Family Self-Sufficiency Program

September 15, 2011|By DAN DEARTH |
  • Ted Shankle, executive director of the Hagerstown Housing Authority.
Herald-Mail file photo

The Hagerstown Housing Authority has received a $100,125 federal grant to help pay for a program that sends the heads of low-income families back to school.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Wednesday that the money was part of $2.9 million grant that was awarded to the state of Maryland to promote jobs, self sufficiency and independent living for HUD-assisted housing residents.

Ted Shankle, executive director of the Hagerstown Housing Authority, said Thursday that the local money will be used to help pay the salaries of housing authority employees who run the organization's Family Self-Sufficiency Program.

He said the program sends the heads of Section 8 and public housing families back to school to earn general equivalency diplomas and college degrees.

"I wish we did it more," Shankle said. "A lot of single mothers use it. It helps people improve their lives and move up and out."

The Family Self-Sufficiency Program sets aside a portion of each participant's rent, which is placed in an escrow account and matched by the housing authority, Shankle said. Participants get the money when they graduate. If they don't, the money is put back in the program.

Shankle said that in one case, a participant's account swelled to $21,000. The participant used that money to make a down payment on a house.

The average annual income for people before they begin the program is about $6,035, Shankle said. Graduates earn $20,081.

"That shows you it does work," he said.

Shankle said 88 people have completed the program since it was adopted by the housing authority in 1999.

Maugansville resident Kelly Mills is one of them.

A single mother of two, Mills said she participated in the program from 2004 to 2009.

She said she earned two associate degrees in the process and used the $11,000 in her escrow account to make a down payment on a car and to establish a savings account.

"It's a totally awesome program." Mills said. "It works the exact opposite of any entitlement program because the more you work, the more potential you have."

Mills, who now works for the housing authority, said she moved out of Section 8 housing and lives in a rented home.

She said she is working to earn a bachelor's degree at Frostburg State University in Hagerstown.

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