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Examining the Family Self-Sufficiency Program
May 3, 2011
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released the second study of a three-part series evaluating the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program. FSS is a program meant to help residents of public housing who are also participants in theHousing Choice Voucher (HCV) program – sometimes called the Section 8 Program – become self-sufficient.
The current study examined programmatic features and family characteristics that appear to influence the success of families participating in FSS.
An FSS program basically works like this:
- You are a family using a Section 8 voucher. This means that you pay 30 percent of your monthly income toward your rent; the federal government kicks in whatever else you need.
- The FSS program you’re in helps you gain the skills to make more money through supportive services and case management.
- As you make more money, instead of contributing the any additional income toward rent (up to 1/3 of your monthly income), the FSS program puts that money in an interest-earning escrow account.
- When you graduate from the FSS program, you get all that savings.
There are caveats, of course.
- All families volunteering for the FSS program have to sign a 5- year Contract of Participation (COP) which basically stipulates that they will engage in the program, follow all the rules, take all the steps, etc.
- People who exit the program before graduating forfeit the savings in their escrow account.
So at the end of the 4-year study period:
- 41 participants (or 24 percent of the tracking group) graduated from the FSS program and received their escrow,
- 63 participants (or 37 percent of the tracking group) left the program before graduation, forfeiting their escrow,
- 66 participants (39 percent of the tracking group) were still enrolled in the FSS program.
The graduates of the program did tend to have certain characteristics that distinguished them from their exiter counterparts. According to the report, a higher proportion of graduates were a) employed at the beginning of the tracking and more likely to stay employed, b) made more money and were more likely to increase their earnings during their time in the FSS program, c) more educated than their exiter counterparts, d) spent more time in the program – about four months longer.