Living

Caribou self-sufficiency program leads to success

CARIBOU, Maine — The Caribou Housing Authority recently reported one of its participants in its Family Self-Sufficiency Program has successfully graduated.

The participant entered the program in 2015 and has made great strides toward family self-sufficiency, Caribou housing officials said. The individual, who began with FSS while receiving housing assistance and working at a part-time job at a local restaurant, earned more than $20,000 through the program to help meet future goals.

 The housing authority has offered Family Self-Sufficiency to qualified families since 1993. The effort enables Housing and Urban Development housing-assisted families to increase their earned income and reduce their dependency on welfare assistance and rental subsidies. 

The contract term, generally five years, may be extended for another two years by the housing authority for good cause. Once selected, an eligible family enters into an agreement with the housing authority to identify responsibilities, available resources and to establish a series of intermediate and long-term goals. 

Some common goals are to become debt-free or own a home. Services coordinated through the program include child care, transportation, job training and employment counseling. Services may be outsourced to providers in the local community. 

The housing authority establishes an escrow account for the eligible family. Any increases in the family’s rent because of increased earned income during the program result in a credit to the escrow account. Once the family graduates (ultimately becomes self-sufficient) they may access the escrow and use it to meet their goals. 

The new graduate started out with a calculated escrow deposit of $57 per month. Hard work and perseverance were rewarded with increased hours and pay increases, and the escrow deposit grew to $192 per month in the first year. 

Each annual recertification was met with further successes and escrow continued to grow. 

The individual was originally set to graduate from the program in 2020, but at that time an opportunity came about for this FSS family to receive more training and a better job position. This meant more work hours and additional responsibilities, so under the program rules, an extension was granted for good cause. 

By the next recertification, COVID-19 was raging. Another extension was granted with a waiver from Housing and Urban Development.

By this year, the individual was paying full rent and was gainfully employed, and graduated from the program with $20,108 in the escrow account that can now be used to achieve long-range goals. 

 To learn more about Caribou Housing Authority, Section 8 housing assistance or the Family Self Sufficiency Program, visit caribouhousing.org, check out Caribou Housing Authority on Facebook, contact Ouellette via email at soullette@caraiboumaine.org or by phone at 493-5977, or contact Lisa Plourde, Executive Director via email at lplourde@cariboumaine.org or by phone at (207) 493-5971. 

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