Not everyone reaches destinations the same way. For Kervine Paul, an Albany Housing Authority resident, getting to the WAGE Center started with a spiritual journey. Through her church community, Kervine gathered the strength and self-awareness to realize that her self-esteem was within her control. At church, she met people who encouraged her to come to the WAGE Center to work on her goals.
Nearly five years ago, Nija Leonard was at the WAGE Center looking to find a job. At the time, she says, “I had no car. I had no job.” She was lacking “basically all the things I wanted.”
Nija learned about the Family Self Sufficiency program as she began to get serious about working. She decided to get signed up be-cause, “it was an encouragement to go to work - like a reward.”
There are moments in everyone’s life when they have no idea where to turn. Isheonna Faulkner found herself in a situation that might have made another person hopeless. Instead, she wrote an inspiring story for herself and her children. When she started on the FSS program she says, “I was going through a rough period in my life. My children’s father had committed a horrible crime and left me to be a single first time parent” of a two year old and a two month old. “I tried so hard to cry in silence, but couldn’t control the pain that I was feeling inside – the pain of raising fatherless children and not being able to support them working a full time job as an aide. I knew I had to do something very quickly.”
When Albany Housing Authority resident Giselle needed a career change, she came to the WAGE Center to begin looking for stable employment. After demonstrating a commitment to working and consistently job searching using WAGE Center computers on a regular basis, an opportunity came up with the Port of Albany. With a recommendation from WAGE Center staff, Giselle was interviewed and hired at the Port on a full-time basis with benefits. The retirement program even connected to a previous New York State job Giselle had, so that her vesting in the retirement program would pick up where she left off with the state system.
Long-time WAGE Center participant, Everett Rice, has more determination in his little finger than most people you’ll meet. One of the most striking things that is immediately evident about Everett is his commitment to being there for his kids.
When his youngest daughter was an infant he came job searching with her in a stroller at the WAGE Center, although he already had a job. He has always been a motivated worker, often holding more than one job to support his kids. He lights up when talking about them saying, “I love my babies—nothing in the world comes before my babies.”
How can the Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program at the WAGE Center help Albany Housing Authority Residents and Housing Choice Voucher recipients meet their goals? Ask Gene’ve Parson who has completed a Bachelor’s Degree with honors, bought a new SUV and landed a full-time salaried job with benefits.
Two years ago Gene’ve was pregnant, did not have a car or a job and depended on assistance to make ends meet. But she received a letter about FSS and says she used it as a “drive for me to do more work towards becoming selfsufficient.” She first met with Bill Paben who was temporarily managing the program. Gene’ve says, “Bill was so great because he told me he could see me graduating and even going further than that. He helped me realize that even if goals took time, if I wrote them down it would help make them more attainable.”
Home ownership is the ultimate dream of many participants of the Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program. Valrie Alexander, Jarin Cruz, Kendra McCalmon, Luis Sotomayor, and Shaquoia Ruffin all achieved that dream in 2017. Everyone’s path to homeownership is different, but by earning escrow in the FSS program through increased wages, money can be set aside during the five year program to use as a down payment. While working with a case manager at the WAGE Center, goals are set surrounding credit repair, qualifying for mortgages and using other available grant and money matching vehicles if homeownership is a goal.
Shaquoia Ruffin is a Licensed Practical Nurse, a homeowner and a recent graduate of the WAGE Center and Albany Housing Authority’s Family Self Sufficiency Program (FSS). She is the perfect example of what can be done with perseverance and good use of available resources.
As a Case Manager for the Domestic Violence Services division of Unity House, Felicia Lloyd uses her years of experience and education to help those in need of domestic violence services.
Goal-setting has become a priority for Jessica Wallace, since becoming a part of the FSS Program. She has already achieved many of her goals, but explains that she continues to set new ones continuing on her path.
Sonia Graham is an Albany Housing Authority resident who has traveled a long road to reach her most recent success. Like many women having children at a young age, Sonia left high school to be a mother.
In just a few short months, Albany Housing Authority resident, Vernell Wilson has made enormous strides toward a self-sufficient future. It began when she visited the WAGE Center to inquire about tutoring services. But, a degree, a full-time job and an escrow account later, she is “hungry for more.”
Over the course of the last year, Rauwban Willis has turned his life around through fortitude and perseverance. Beginning with regular job searching at the WAGE Center, Rauwban was determined to better his situation. At the time, Rauwban did not have a regular place to call home or dependable employment.
With the help of Habitat for Humanity and the New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s Land Bank Revitalization Initiative, Family Self Sufficiency participant Luis Sotomayor and wife Saretha are about to become homeowners.
In a press conference on March 24, 2017, including Eric Schneiderman, Albany County Executive, Dan McCoy, Albany Mayor, Kathy Sheehan and a host of local legislators, Saretha spoke for the family saying, “Our family of seven is looking forward to moving from a cramped apartment where we converted the dining room into a bedroom.” The family is moving into a beautifully renovated townhome on Clinton Avenue.