At the City of Santa Monica Housing Authority and St. Joseph Center’s (SJC’s) joint fourth annual graduation and awards ceremony, “Turning the Tide of Opportunity,” on April 13th at the Ken Edwards Center, certificates were awarded to seven women who have successfully completed the Housing Authority’s five-year Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSSP) and are on their way to achieving economic independence.
“The Family Self-Sufficiency Program is extremely important to the City of Santa Monica,” said Peter Mezza, Santa Monica Housing Authority Administrator, “because it shows the federal government, the citizens of Santa Monica, and local decision-makers that with the right kind of assistance, people can become as successful as they want to be.”
Requirements for graduation from the program are: one year off public assistance, employment, and consistent case management.
A City of Santa Monica Housing Authority project, FSSP is a collaborative effort of Westside agencies, organizations, and businesses. St. Joseph Center is responsible for case management.
“The FSSP helps Santa Monica families receiving Section 8 rental assistance to rise above the need to depend on public assistance and to contribute back to the community that has helped them through difficult times,” said Kristina Eppler, SJC Family Center Manager.
“One graduate obtained a degree in accounting and now works as an auditor for the federal government; one obtained a real estate license and now works in the entertainment industry; and one completed SJC’s Culinary Training Program and now works for the Los Angeles Unified School District,” according to Julie Lansing, FSSP Coordinator for the Santa Monica Housing Authority. “Collectively the 7 graduates saved a total of over $61,000 in their FSSP rental escrow accounts, which they get to keep now that they have graduated.”
As clients secure jobs and their income rises, their share of their rent also increases. To encourage participants to achieve financial stability, the Santa Monica Housing Authority matches the increased amount of income and places it into an escrow account that is released to the client upon graduation. The money can then be used for a variety of purposes, including education, a down payment on a house, or seed money to start a business.
“The FSSP is about partnership,” said Leticia Garcia Greenman, SJC Director of Family Services. “There are so many helping hands in the community, honoring the hard work of the people in the program.”
Five volunteers from the Los Angeles Junior League “Done in a Day” project, chaired by Nikki Abish, acted as ushers and provided decorations, a cake, and craft projects for the small children who attended the ceremony.On May 7th, St. Joseph Center will hold its annual Dinner Dance and Auctions to raise funds for the support of its 10 programs on seven sites in Venice, Santa Monica, and West Los Angeles that provide emergency services, child care, case management, job training, and senior services to over 7,000 homeless and low-income men, women, and children each year. For more information call (310) 396-6468 ext. 328 or visit www.stjosephctr.org