Self–reliance, financial prosperity and stability are things most people look for in their lives. For many, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is a temporary stepping stone many use to getting there. Nearly 100 Housing Choice Voucher participants are also choosing to become part of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS), and together, both programs have proven to be just that — stepping stones to something greater.

The link between education and economic prosperity is well documented. When the workforce is well trained and educated, it becomes more productive, and this productivity is a boost — not only in the pockets of those individuals but in the community they live in. When people are able to increase their earning potential by developing and refining their skills and capabilities, they can compete for a higher wage. This higher wage brings up the area median income (the average gross income of all households in a county like Ulster) which then funnels money back into the local economy as people spend more. This is not about increasing the number of people with college degrees; literacy classes and certificate courses also assist people in increasing their earning potential.  As the proportion of educated and trained workers increases in a given area, the economy of that area greatly benefits as skilled workers attract incoming businesses.

They used to say “It takes a village…” For many in today’s world, that village can seem nonexistent as people struggle to make ends meet while trying to get ahead. How is a single parent supposed to get to work and complete a college degree while making sure their children are in good hands?

Often times, an individual (or family) finds itself in a position where they have to choose between continuing to work for a wage and investing in themselves to be able to earn more later. This is where Family Self-Sufficiency becomes a stepping stone to assist Housing Choice Voucher holders. The FSS program is a support system offering opportunities and resources to FSS participants so they can get ahead. FSS clients create goals for themselves and, with an informed case worker, they learn about and access resources while building an escrow account to use towards achieving their goals. FSS enables people to save money without the worry of losing access to rental assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher because they earn too much money.

Earning more not only affects the individual or family immediately; it also empowers the next generation. As one FSS participant put it, “Being able to have help paying debts so I can return to school and finish my degree is so exciting, not just for me, but because my daughter is going to see me finish. And she’s going to know that she can do it, too!”

Community centers on the people in that community. Community is about bringing people together, helping each other and investing in that community. The Family Self-Sufficiency Program helps people invest in themselves. That creates a positive affect for them, their households and the communities they live in.

To find out more about the FSS program and what it can do for you as a Housing Choice Voucher holder, sign up for our quarterly email newsletter! Read the latest issue of the Family Self-Sufficiency eNewsletter here (Winter 2015).

Laura Nordstrom is the Family Self-Sufficiency Program Coordinator. She can be reached at (845) 331-2140, ext. 312 or by email

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