Santiago is a Greenwich public housing resident who provides independent limousine services to exclusive clients in Greenwich, Connecticut. After working for many years as a taxi driver and having to rent a vehicle from his employer, Santiago was motivated to buy a new limousine and work as an independent driver. In doing so, Santiago set-up three goals to achieve his dreams--increase his family’s income, pay-off his debt and save money in the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program escrow account.
HUD’s FSS program enables HUD-assisted families, like Santiago’s, to increase their earned income and reduce their dependency on welfare assistance and rental subsidies. An interest-bearing escrow account is established by the public housing authority for each participating family. Any increases in the family’s rent as a result of increased earned income during the family’s participation in the program result in a credit to the family’s escrow account. Once a family graduates from the program, they may access the escrow and use it for any purpose.
However, Santiago’s journey was not without its challenges. At the beginning of 2016, Santiago’s wife suffered an accident and damaged nerves in her neck, thus limiting her mobility for several months. During that time, Santiago had to care for his two-year-old son during the day, care for his wife and maintain the house. He drove the taxi overnight to maintain an income.
The FSS program Coordinator, Myriam Zelada, connected Santiago to the Family Center’s Child Care program and assisted him with applying for Care 4 Kids. Once Santiago’s son was in the day care center, he could begin working during the day. When his wife recovered, she secured a part-time job. As a result, the family increased their income and contributed more money to the FSS escrow account.
In addition, Myriam helped him improve his credit score by assisting him with accessing free credit reports. He couldn’t afford a new car at that time; the interest rates were very high due to his credit rating. However, Myriam helped Santiago submit credit report disputes and taught him how to manage his accounts and keep his utilization low. Santiago was determined and told Myriam, “I will buy the car by the end of this year and I will have a better deal due to the improvement of my credit score.”
His determination paid off. Santiago successfully graduated from the FSS program in December 2016. He saved nearly $11,000 in his escrow account, using the funds to buy the car. He and his family learned a lot in the program and plan to continue their efforts toward self-sufficiency.
“My clients are awesome and the FSS program really makes a difference in their lives,” says Myriam. “I have been working in the FSS program for almost a year and half and during this time, my clients really work hard to achieve their self-sufficiency goals.”