Despite the challenges of the pandemic, FSS participants have been making progress toward their professional and financial goals
On Aug. 23, Bridgeview Resource Center held a small ceremony where graduates of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program received big checks. The checks represent money earned by participating in the program aimed at building independence and financial literacy.
It was the first time in years Bridgeview held an in-person graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, FSS participants have been making progress toward their professional and financial goals.
Tatyana Fernandez Kolomiyets’ goals were to improve her credit score, get an associate’s degree in technology, earn enough money to support her family without assistance and become a homeowner.
“It was definitely not an easy road to that success, but it was possible when you have the support,” she said. “I know my worth and know that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to no matter the obstacles as long as I try my best.”
The FSS program is open to households using Housing Choice Vouchers (which reduce rent costs for those who cannot afford market-rate rents). An interest-bearing escrow account is established in their name and grows through earned income and accomplishing milestones throughout the program. Upon completion, graduates can use their checks however they see fit; typically it goes toward schooling costs, debt reduction, purchasing a vehicle or even putting a down payment on a home. One recent grad earned $40,000 in escrow.
All 19 of the 2021 and 2022 graduates are employed full time. They no longer use rental subsidies or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a government program providing cash assistance to low-income families. Twelve graduates head single-parent households.
“With this program I was able — because I had low rent — to go to school full time,” graduate Laurie Brown said. “I don’t think that I would be successful today without the program.”
Brown got an accounting job, learned how to be financially stable and in July purchased a home.
Since 2017, 18 graduates have purchased homes. Their escrow money is one piece of that financial achievement; FSS staff connect them with down payment assistance and first time homebuyer programs.
About 100 households participate in FSS each year. The current average annual income is about $30,000. Seventy percent of those working their way through the program are working at least part time.
FSS is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Bridgeview puts on the program in partnership with Vancouver Housing Authority.
“This unique program truly is an example of commitment, support and partnership between participants and community partners who are invested not only in their outcomes but their futures,” said Sean Moore, Bridgeview board member.
Bridgeview Executive Director Angie Sytsma said FSS is a prime example of how the nonprofit breaks the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Many graduates are the first in their families to be homeowners or complete higher education.
“That’s what Bridgeview is all about,” Sytsma said.
Program participation is five years, but people can graduate early. One participant completed the program in five months. It’s highly individualized and depends upon set goals.
Although the FSS program is restricted to those receiving subsidized rent in Clark County, anyone in the community can use the services and resources at Bridgeview Resource Center.
Information provided by Vancouver Housing Authority.
- Washington Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of capital gains taxThe Washington State Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the state’s capital gains tax. The court released its 7-2 ruling on Friday morning.
- Sen. Lynda Wilson has warning for taxpayers after Supreme Court backs capital-gains income taxSen. Lynda Wilson of Vancouver, budget leader for Senate Republicans, offered this reaction to the state Supreme Court’s ruling today that the tax on capital-gains income adopted by Democratic legislators in 2021 is constitutional.
- Local photographer captures Northern LightsVancouver’s Heather Tianen drove for two hours to find clear skies in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights last night, and she captured some incredible images.
- Arrest made, public assistance still requested regarding October 2022 fatality collisionThe Clark County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating a fatal collision that claimed the life of a Vancouver man last fall. Vancouver resident Gregory Bailey, 59, was arrested Thursday and charged with one count of Vehicular Homicide.
- Council Chair Karen Bowerman to deliver virtual State of the County AddressClark County Council Chair Karen Dill Bowerman will present the 2023 State of the County address in a video to be released on Tue., April 4.
- Councilor Michelle Belkot to hold first town hall for District 2 with Sheriff John HorchCrime has been in the news often in Hazel Dell and other District 2 areas of Clark County and Councilor Michelle Belkot is inviting area citizens to attend her first town hall to talk about it.
- POLL: Do you agree with a Seattle lawmaker that police pursuit reform legislation is based on a ‘massive misinformation campaign?Do you agree with a Seattle lawmaker that police pursuit reform legislation is based on a ‘massive misinformation campaign?