March 26, 2015

The Path to Self-Sufficiency: HUD Dollars at Work

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Jenny 2Recently, HUD awarded $36 million through its Resident Opportunities and Self Sufficiency – Service Coordinators (ROSS) Program to public housing authorities to help public housing residents find jobs.

To show you a bit about how the ROSS program works, we interviewed Jenny K. Grimsley, a Resident Services Coordinator in California.  We talked to her about how she uses HUD funds to help low-income residents find jobs.

 What is the name of your organization and its purpose?

I am very pleased to say that I have been with the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara for over 15 years.  As a Housing Authority, our primary mission is to provide affordable housing opportunities for low income households.  Once stable housing is obtained it serves as a platform to change lives through self-sufficiency services and programming.

About how many people would you say you helped using HUD/ROSS funding and over how many years?

Under the ROSS Program, we directly serve approximately 800 persons each year, and we have maintained and grown services since the initiation of our program in 2008.  The total number of people served by our ROSS Program is tough to even estimate, as there is a snowball effect to the provision of self-sufficiency services.  When you touch a life, the life that you’ve touched begins to touch other lives and the intensity grows and spreads throughout the family, the neighborhood and the community.

Do you have any examples or memorable stories of how this funding has helped you help someone get a job or some training?

One story that will stay with me forever is of a young Public Housing Resident who joined the Boys & Girls Club Unit that we partnered with at one of our complexes.  Under ROSS, Public Housing Residents receive scholarship memberships to the Club.  She was just 13 at the time, but over the years she has grown up before our very eyes.  She became a member of the youth leadership council known as the “Keystone Club”, and eventually took over as Keystone President for the other teens.

When she graduated high school, the Boys & Girls Club, hired her as a member of their staff, while at the same time she also enrolled in college with the goal of becoming a teacher.  Under ROSS, we then added a partnership with the local school district’s “After School Education and Safety Program,” otherwise known as “ASES” at the same complex.  The school district met this young lady, and immediately hired her as the site provider for the ASES Program.  In June, she will graduate with her Associate’s Degree, and will transfer to the University in the fall, and YES… She is still determined and working towards becoming an Elementary School Teacher.

What was their reaction and how did it impact their life?

This young lady has blossomed and grown from a little girl from the “projects” to a soon to be college graduate and her primary goal is to educate others.  This is a “pass-it-on” story if ever I’ve heard one. She’s only 20 years young, and ROSS has changed her life.  Now in turn, how many lives will she change?

 What is best part of being a ROSS coordinator?

The ability to change the world, one family at a time.

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