For Christina Jacks, she has a story that is, unfortunately, too common. She found herself a single mom when she had two kids in diapers, and her American Dream had evaporated. See, she was a homeowner, and after her marriage dissolved, she couldn’t afford anything.
Thankfully for her, subsidized housing was available through POAH – Preservation of Affordable Housing, where she lived at Hawthorne Place Apartments in Independence for four years rebuilding her life. Many of you know that, in an effort to bring meaningful and last change to our neighbors in Hawthorne, CSL has an office there with 10 staff working to connect neighbors to their dreams and aspirations.
She was fully-engaged with CSL in employment services, financial coaching, income supports, and received assistance with school supplies and Christmas presents for her kids. We helped her land a great job at a Raytown-based company that develops school picture orders.
With a new career, her life changed, and our community changed, when Christina enrolled in FSS, the Family Self-Sufficiency program, that CSL runs in partnership with HUD. The FSS program helps build financial assets for families in subsidized housing communities. It does so by capturing increases in earned income, not to go toward higher rent payments, but to a person’s own escrowed savings account.
Christina, in less than 2 years, saved nearly $9,000 through FSS, with the help of her Financial Coach, Jeff Sheets. Her American Dream is back because with CSL’s coaching, she closed on the purchase of a new home in late December. Her FSS savings was used to cover the down payment and closing costs of her new home.
I visited Christina at her home last week, and it was amazing to see her in her new element. She used to live in a conjoined town home, where her kids didn't have a lot of room to play. She now has a spacious backyard with a swing set, and I think about the wonderful childhood experiences her children will have in their own home. Additionally, they live less than a quarter-mile from their neighborhood school, and her kids will be able to walk there during warmer weather.
For far too long, in our collective anti-poverty work, we have ignored the power of building wealth and assets for poverty families to have economic mobility. It is time that this work around wealth- and asset-building become the norm, and not the exception. Christina said that none of this would have been possible without the FSS program, and without the help of Jeff navigating her through this. As a community, we need to look for opportunities to equip families with assets so they can move ahead in life.
At the end of 2019, our FSS families at Hawthorne have saved more than $206,000 to build new dreams around higher education, homeownership, and credit repair. FSS is designed as a five-year engagement, and while Christina is our first graduate to go into homeownership, there are many lined up right behind her, and we look forward to sharing more success stories like this in 2020!