Local Family Self-Sufficiency program
helps those in need
reach financial independence.
CENTRAL FALLS — Trudy Crespo and Joaquin Ortiz are ready to move into their first home.Born and raised in Pawtucket, the couple has eyed a house on Washington Street and while it may be a bit overwhelming, they are excited to call this house a home.
Ortiz was one of three graduates who completed the five-year Family Self-Sufficiency program, which was administered by the Central Falls Housing Authority. The program is a comprehensive system designed to promote and teach financial independence to those receiving public assistance and is funded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Joining Ortiz at the ceremony at Wilfrid Manor Tuesday were his fellow graduates Yesnia Frometa and Angelica Roman.
The five-year program equips participants with the tools to move off of public assistance and the program curriculum includes career development consultation, homeownership classes, computer literacy classes, General Educational Development and ESL classes, parenting and preschool classes, financial literacy classes, and health and wellness classes.
Participants are able to graduate after demonstrating financial independence by surpassing public assistance eligibility, officials have said.
Crespo, Ortiz’s wife, said that she started with the program five years ago as a Section 8 tenant with the goal to get off of Section 8 and out of public housing and become a homeowner. However, she lost her job in 2014 and Ortiz picked up where she left off.
“It’s very exciting,” Crespo said of the prospects of becoming a homeowner. “It’s a little overwhelming. We’re young. I’m 26 and he’s 25, we’re finishing up college and becoming homeowners all at the same time. It’s an overwhelming feeling.”
Crespo and Ortiz have four children – three girls ages 10, 7, and 6 and one 11month-old boy. Ortiz is working full-time as a home based therapy worker with Ocean State Community Resources and both Crespo and Ortiz are full-time students at Community College of Rhode Island in Lincoln.
Crespo said that without the self- sufficiency program, she did not think the family could have accomplished their goal of becoming homeowners so fast.
“I felt accomplishment,” she said of watching Ortiz at the graduation ceremony. “It wasn’t me up there but it was my significant other and he was there to let me know ‘because you couldn’t finish it doesn’t mean we weren’t able to accomplish goals.’”
Central Falls Mayor James Diossa at Tuesday’s graduation ceremony said: “I’d love to congratulate three of our residents who have distinguished themselves through their hard work to gain the knowledge and skills to better their lives. I’m proud of the commitment that these three individuals have shown while striving to achieve economic independence.”
Tina-Marie Sullivan, executive director of the Central Falls Housing Authority, said the program is “very important because it gives the tenant the opportunity to learn and educate themselves, better themselves.”
The program currently has 30 people involved and has had nine graduates over the past two years. Of the nine graduates, four have since purchased homes, which Sullivan said “shows that we’re doing something right.”
“We’re also encouraging them to purchase within this community to keep the funding here in Central Falls,” she added, noting that they work closely with the Pawtucket-Central Falls Development Corporation to give the graduates the skills necessary to become homeowners.
“Central Falls is at a low right now for homeownership and we’re trying to increase that by our partnership,” she said. “It’s fairly new, the goal is that they educate them to be able to purchase homes. The idea is to get them to purchase homes at something they can afford. They need something affordable and that’s the goal. It’s a benefit for us and the community.”
The Family Self-Sufficiency program is designed to provide programs and services to ensure that participants complete their education and earn a living wage, teach the skills necessary to set and attain realistic goals, and provide support services designed to assist participants as they work toward their goal of self-sufficiency, officials have said.
Over the five-year program, participants work with housing authority staff and community partners that sponsor specific classes. Program partners include NetworkRI, the Blackstone Valley Community Action Program, the Pawtucket Public Library, and Progreso Latino.
Original story can be found in the 2/4 edition of the Pawtucket Times.