Richmonders can earn thousands by reaching life goals: ‘I’m still in shock’

RICHMOND, Va. -- Setting up families for success. That’s the goal of one program being offered through the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

The Family Self Sufficiency Program is helping residents create and meet goals during the course of a five-year period. Once they successfully complete the program, there is a payout for the resident.

Lesley Tyson who is the Family Self Sufficiency Program Coordinator explained how the program works.

If a resident pays a certain amount of rent and gets a job, that rent would increase.

At that time, if the resident enrolls in the program, RRHA will take the increased rent amount and put it into an escrow account.

Every month, as the resident pays his or her rent, the escrow account accumulates.

“This is designed to help residents become self sufficient by setting goals. It’s a five-year program, but they are not bound to the five years. They have five years to reach whatever goals they set for themselves," Tyson explained.

Last year, Tyson said, they had five people graduate from the program. One young lady received $10,000 and a few others were paid more than $7,000.

“It’s going to depend on what they feel is going to help them become self sufficient. We don’t stipulate what their goals are. The only thing we do is tell them one requirement is that they have to be working at least one year by the end of the program in order to receive those funds,” Tyson said.

Cotina Brake is one resident who is taking full advantage of this program.

She said she set three goals which included going from part to full-time employment, repairing her credit, and purchasing a home. Already she has accomplished two of the three. She is now working with a loan officer and realtor to make her dream of home ownership a reality.

“I didn’t think my credit could turn around so quickly. I also didn’t know my personal savings and escrow would accumulate so quickly. I’m still in shock. I tell everyone about joining the FSS program. They will help you achieve your goals,” Brake added.

Another aspect of the program she loves is that RRHA helps prepare residents to make good sound financial choices before they receive a lump sum of money.

“They offer monthly workshops on things like repairing your credit. They just link you to different people who can help you,” Brake said.

“We do have different financial workshops," Tyson added. "We may have something on budgeting, holiday spending or a class on credit. We also will have someone from a financial institution come out and talk to them about saving money, investing and setting goals.”

Both Brake and Tyson agree the program is a win-win for those residents who make up their mind to get on the path to self sufficiency.

It’s a hand up and not a hand out. Hopefully for many, leading them down the road away from public assistance to a brighter financial future.

For more information contact the Family Self-Sufficiency Coordinator at 804-780-4866 or via e-mail.