Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

From Homelessness to Hope to Housing

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Apr 17, 2018 @ 09:45 AM
Moriya SmithMoriya Smith with Labouré College President Maureen Smith at her graduation last May. Moriya is now studying for her bachelor's degree. 

Almost 20 years ago, when Moriya Smith was only a teenager, she became homeless, fending not only for herself, but her firstborn son Reggie. “I had to go into a shelter,” she said. “I didn’t have a place to stay. It was horrible, probably the worst experience of my life.”

Today, the pain of that experience has been washed away by the success she has achieved as a single mother – she has two other children Marissa and Maranda – who works full-time as a registered nurse. She is currently studying to earn her bachelor’s degree, and is saving money through HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program to one day become a homeowner on Cape Cod.

Originally from Boston, Smith moved to Brewster nearly two years ago, initially working with HAC to secure a rental. “You helped me with my first and last month’s rent which was a big burden lifted from me,” Smith said. “And then my oldest daughter needed a bed so [HAC] gave me a mattress and box spring… They [HAC] were like my little angels. They really helped me. I was still in school and had not yet finished so I wasn’t working and money was tight, very tight.”

As Smith describes it, money was so tight that while she was working towards her associate’s degree and commuting to Labouré College from Cape Cod to Milton, she sometimes didn’t know if she could pay for the gas to make the trip.

Despite these obstacles, Smith has been able to flourish thanks to those around her who have offered their support.

One of those is HAC’s FSS Coordinator Jan Nelson, who has worked with Smith since she entered the program in September 2016. “I have never met anyone like her who is not only supportive, but caring and who I feel is 100 percent in my corner for everything,” Smith said.

Nelson has provided that support and care through FSS which provides incentives for Section 8 voucher holders to increase their earnings. As one’s income increases, their rent increases, and the difference between the original rent and the increased rent is placed into an escrow account which FSS clients can access once they graduate.

Before Smith graduated from Labouré last May, Nelson recommended her for the One Family Scholarship, given to low-income single parents to further their education. Smith was selected for the scholarship which she is using as she pursues her bachelor’s from Labouré in the hopes of becoming a family nurse practitioner.

In the fall, Smith landed a job as a nurse in a long-term care facility on the Cape, a position that has added financial stability to her life.

When she eventually graduates from FSS, Smith plans on using the money to become a homeowner, something she never could have envisioned two decades ago when she was homeless. “I feel like those things, those unfortunate events in my life have made me strong and made me who I am today,” she said.

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Section 8, Jan Nelson, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Family Self Sufficiency, homelessness, One Family Scholarship, FSS, hope, affordable housing, Moriya Smith, Brewster

FSS Client Receives "One Family" Scholarship

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 @ 10:56 AM
Janice_Jan_Edited-16.jpgHAC's Jan Nelson (left) with Janice Jones.

Success means different things to different people. For West Barnstable’s Janice Jones, it will one day mean becoming a homeowner. “There is something about owning a home that makes me feel like I accomplished something good,” she said.

Jones is not there yet, but the goal is within reach thanks to the assistance of HAC. Jones is currently enrolled in the agency’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program which provides incentives for those receiving federal housing subsidies to build their financial assets. Participants do so by increasing their earned income, which is then placed into an escrow account that they can access upon graduating from the program to use as they see fit, including education, starting a small business or purchasing a home.

The 49-year-old Jones has been in the FSS program for a little over a year, balancing that with a job as a lead preschool teacher at the YMCA Cape Cod in Barnstable, raising her 12-year-old son Marcus and taking online classes at the University of Massachusetts Amherst towards a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

Jan Nelson, HAC’s FSS coordinator, has been so impressed with Jones’ work ethic that she nominated her for a One Family Scholarship. In the application, Nelson highlighted Jones’ ability as a single mother to juggle her work and family obligations, all while spending three years earning her associate’s degree from Eastern Nazarene College where she graduated summa cum laude.

The One Family Scholarship is given to low-income single parents, providing them with the financial support necessary to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. In August, Jones was notified that she was one of 17 applicants chosen as a scholar, attending a reception in Boston where they were each given a laptop to use as part of their college studies. “I cried,” Jones admitted. “It was so awesome.”

Along with a Federal Pell Grant, Jones will use the scholarship to cover her college costs.

The scholarship is just one source of motivation for Jones as she sets her sights on eventually graduating college and owning a home on Cape Cod, where she has lived for the past 13 years. Her son Marcus – she has two adult children, Candice, 30, and Derrick, 21 – is another motivating factor for her. “I want to show my son it can be done,” she said. “I want him to be proud of me.”

Since last year, HAC’s Nelson has been helping Jones in her journey. “She is always there when I need her,” Jones said of Nelson. “She’s just been a really good support system for me.”

It’s a support system she will continue to rely on as she moves closer to reaching her goals. “I’ve always wanted to own a home and it seems more reachable now,” she said.

Learn more about HAC's Family Self-Sufficiency Program by clicking this link.

Tags: Jan Nelson, Family Self Sufficiency, One Family Scholarship, FSS, Janice Jones

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