Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Success Means Saving For Angela Bernard

Posted by Laura Reckford on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

angela bernard fssStrawberry shortcake was on the menu and achievement was front and center at the party for Angela Bernard who graduated from the Family Self-Sufficiency program last month.

Angela, 28, of Mashpee was there with her boyfriend Matthew Roy and her two daughters, Deja, 7, and Melody, 2.

When she talked about how she turned her life around through the program, Angela credited her family and good fortune. “I’ve been so blessed,” Angela said.

Jan Nelson, who administers the FSS program at Housing Assistance Corporation, said that Angela came to the program in 2010 as a single mother on welfare trying to figure out what to do with her life. Her daughter Deja was 3 at the time and Angela was interested in perhaps going to college.

“We did a lot of college exploration,” Jan said.

Angela decided to take HAC’s financial literacy class to get her finances in order.

When she got pregnant with her second child, Melody, she put going back to school on hold and got a job at Dunkin Donuts. She took all the classes the company offers in Safe Serve methods and management training. That led to a promotion to assistant manager.

One year later, she has just been promoted to manager of the Dunkin Donuts on Route 151 in Mashpee. She works six days a week at the restaurant, which is a short drive from her apartment in a HAC-owned building in Mashpee.

“She’s a nice success story,” Jan said. “We’re very proud. Angela has come a long way.”

Angela said she is glad she participated in the FSS program. “It gave me a sense of direction,” she said. “I don’t know where I would be today.”

The way the FSS program works is that as Angela’s salary increases, her share of the rent increases and federal funds are put into an escrow savings account for her. Once she finishes the FSS program, she gets a check for that amount, in her case, $7,322.52, to use any way she would like.

The goal of the program is to move people off public assistance and into jobs and affordable
housing by meeting self-improvement goals.

Angela was surprised about how much money she had saved through the program. “I was very shocked that I made it this far,” she said.

Angela said she will use the money to start savings accounts for her daughters.

Tags: Family Self Sufficiency, HAC, housing assistance corporation, FSS

HAC Client Saves $35,000 through FSS Escrow Program

Posted by Laura Reckford on Mon, Jun 03, 2013 @ 03:30 PM

Wendi Marciezyk


Housing Assistance Corporation’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program is not as well-known as some of HAC’s other programs. But Wendi Marciezyk, 48, of East Falmouth may have changed that when she recently received a check for $35,000, money she earned by escrowing government funds designed to encourage self-sufficiency.

Just as impressive, she has a job in her field of medical billing coding at Cape Cod Healthcare and is on her way to buying her first home. Her success was all the buzz at HAC’s headquarters the day she “graduated” from the program.

Wendi said the HAC program motivated her to set goals and achieve independence, financially and in all parts of her life. “I’m very proud of myself and I’ve accomplished a lot in six years,” she said.

The Family Self-Sufficiency program allows working clients to escrow government funds as their rent is raised because of their rising income. “It really is a work program,” Jan Nelson, Family Self-Sufficiency Coordinator, said.

Wendi is an example of how HAC’s programs can move people from being recipients of the Department of Transitional Assistance’s cash benefits and Section 8 housing assistance, to working, saving money, and buying a home. That process can be scary for clients, Jan noted, because as incomes increase, clients lose money that has felt like a safety net, from food stamps, to childcare assistance to housing subsidies.

Jan has been working with Wendi almost since Jan began at HAC as the agency’s Family Self-Sufficiency Coordinator seven years ago. “She was one of my first clients,” Jan said. Wendi enrolled in the five-year program in May 2007, but they first met in 2006 when Wendi was unemployed and living on government assistance.

Over her years in the program, Wendi, who as Jan describes her, is “determined, very focused and goal-oriented,” obtained an associate’s degree at Cape Cod Community College, earned several certificates in her field of study, got a job at Cape Cod Healthcare, and now, with her escrow savings, is preparing to buy her first home. All of those milestones were accomplished while Wendi was a single mom raising a teenager, working two jobs, and, over the last several years, raising a grandchild.

How did she get to this point? Goal by goal.

Ms. Nelson flips through her records for Wendi, a bulging manila file that contains papers listing the numerous goals she accomplished in the program, from preparing her resume and inquiring into the field of medical coding, to rebuilding her credit and earning an associate’s degree.

Jan has a total of 42 clients in the Family Self-Sufficiency program now. In her years of coordinating the program, Wendi is--by far--the one who has saved the most money in escrow. Jan notes that Wendi is particularly notable because she went from zero earned income to a full-time job as an Out Patient Coder at Cape Cod Healthcare, a job she loves. But the quality that links all the clients in the program is that they are “goal-oriented,” Jan said, noting the extensive documentation that is required for all clients who participate.

“It is a very closely monitored program,” Jan said of the Family Self-Sufficiency program. The paperwork required revolves around setting goals, and Jan said Wendi knew what she wanted from the beginning. Her first goal was “to be gainfully employed and welfare-free the last year of the program,” which she accomplished, amazingly, within the first year.

We all join in congratulating Wendi on achieving that goal and so much more.

Tags: Family Self Sufficiency, HAC, saving money, FSS

Scholarship Program Helps HAC Client Aim for Goals

Posted by Julie Wake on Sat, Feb 16, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

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Natasha Cash was born and raised in Dennis, but says most of her family members have moved off-Cape to places they don’t want to be because they can’t afford to live on Cape Cod.

“Getting an education will help me stay on Cape Cod,” says Cash, who has a 13-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.

Cash, who lives in Yarmouthport, is the latest HAC client to win a scholarship through One Family Scholar. a comprehensive college scholarship program that breaks the cycle of poverty and family homelessness for low-income single parents. Unlike traditional scholarship programs that focus solely on tuition assistance, the One Family Scholars model focuses on four building blocks for success: college success, financial success, career success and leadership success. The goal is to help people secure family-sustaining employment in their field.

Last September, Cash joined HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency program, which helps low-income families build assets and make progress toward moving away from public assistance. Participants get long-term counseling to help them build their employment skills and increase their financial literacy.

“The people at One Family Scholars help you achieve your goals,” said Cash. “They have a lot of resources you wouldn’t know about otherwise.”

Jan Nelson, HAC’s FSS coordinator, recommended Cash for the One Family Scholarship.

“I was impressed with her from the moment we met – her empathy, reliability, determination and persistence,” said Nelson. “She has no fear of the work ahead of her and she is determined to show her children that higher education is the key to life.”

Cash’s goals are to finish school, learn to budget, repair her credit and own a home. She has worked as a dental assistant
for 17 years and plans to become a dental hygienist. “I love people, and I’m really good at it,” she said.

She started at Cape Cod Community College in September 2011 and is taking two courses this spring: “Anatomy and Physiology” and “Conversational Spanish.” Cash plans to graduate with an associate’s degree in May 2015 and then go on for a bachelor of science degree. “That makes you more marketable,” she said.

Cash, who is Native American, said, “I have a lot of support from my family, the tribe, Jan Nelson, and OFS. My daughter is proud that I’m back in school. She says I’m her role model.”

Cash was asked what she might say to others who are thinking about going back to school. “My advice would be to do it. Don’t waste your life. Go back to school. I could have done it four times over by now. If you look at the whole picture, you’ll never do it. If you look at it as baby steps, you can do it in chunks.”

Founded in 1999 by Paul and Phyllis Fireman and family, One Family is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending family homelessness in Massachusetts by working with elected officials, faith and community leaders, businesses and foundations, and higher learning institutions. With the skills and experience gained from their tenure in the program, One Family Scholars become role models for their children, providing them with the foundation for a stable life.

Tags: Section 8, Family Self Sufficiency, One Family Scholarship, housing assistance corporation, FSS