Many people don’t know that passed Regents exams count toward the High School Equivalency (HSE) Diploma. This was a very pleasant surprise for Princess. When she came to the WAGE Center last year, she had been going to class and working on all subjects. However, when she says when she met her tutor, Bill, they confirmed that, “I got credit for Regents I passed,” leaving only one subject for which to study.
Rayshawn Douglas practically bubbles over with excitement when talking about his successful year-old business, Douglas Janitorial Services. After three brain surgeries to correct disabling symptoms of epilepsy, Rayshawn felt that “God took this disability away” to allow him to flourish and show others a path to success.
Falonda lived on Green Street as an Albany Housing Authority resident until last month, when she bought a home for her family. It was through Affordable Housing Partnership (AHP), that she learned about the Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program at the WAGE Center.
When she first started home buyer programs, two and a half years ago, Falonda realized that she needed to establish credit. So, she started “getting credit cards and making on-time payments.” During that process she says, “I built my credit score up and [started thinking about] meeting the criteria needed to take the next steps.”
Through AHP, she learned about a matched savings program. She says, “It disciplined me to save.” In addition, she enrolled in FSS, which allowed her to save more money toward owning and furnishing a home. Of the FSS program she says, “I like goals. I like challenges. Pay your rent on time...I took that and ran with it.” Paying rent on time, and earning more money, she accumulated escrow savings with FSS.
Macire is beginning a new job as a Cardiac Technician at St. Peter’s Hospital, in part, due to assistance from the WAGE Center and the City of Albany Poverty Reduction Initiative (CAPRI). Since her arrival from Guinea in 2003, Macire has worked hard to support herself and her family.
Kiesha came to the WAGE Center trying to piece together enough money to support herself through temporary work after her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license had lapsed. At the time, she says she was, "looking for stability." She wasn't able to take a free training course, because she had already taken one many years prior. But, without the money to pay for training, she was stuck in a situation that didn't provide enough money to make a living wage.
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.
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.”
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.