Family Self-Sufficiency Program
The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program is a free and voluntary program designed to assist Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) residents save money to achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency. The program provides a savings account and financial guidance to help participants reach their goals. Past graduates have earned up to $30,000 in savings.
Read the frequently asked questions below to understand the program requirements. If you would like to participate after reading the FAQs, contact Frances Gowens, FSS Program Manager, St. Joseph’s Center, at (310) 396-6468 x314 or FGowens@stjosephctr.org.
How can I get an FSS escrow/savings account started?
The FSS program offers a unique savings opportunity for families through an escrow account. The escrow account is established when an FSS participant's rent increases due to an increase in earned income (wages). The account is created and maintained by the Housing Authority.
Who is eligible to enroll in the FSS program?
To enroll in the FSS program, a family must be a Santa Monica Housing Authority (SMHA) Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) resident and not owe any money to SMHA at the time of enrollment.
How can I enroll in the program?
Contact the FSS Program Manager, St. Joseph’s Center, at (310) 396-6468 x314 or at FGowens@stjosephctr.org. They will get you an appointment with an FSS case manager. The FSS case manager will discuss your enrollment in the program and assist you to develop short and long-term self-sufficiency goals. Once this is done, you will sign an FSS Contract of Participation (COP) and periodically meet with your FSS case manager to discuss your progress in accomplishing your goals.
How much money will be deposited into my FSS escrow account?
As a general rule, the amount of increase in tenant rent to owner resulting from an increase in earned income is escrowed. However, other factors such as changes in allowances and whether or not a family is very low income or low income have an effect on how escrow is calculated. The amount that is deposited in an FSS participant’s monthly escrow account may not always be the exact dollar for dollar amount of their rent increase.
In the example below, after becoming employed and earning $2000 a month in earned income, an FSS participant’s portion of their monthly rent increased from $300 to $400. However, because of the $100 increase in the participant’s portion of the rent, the FSS participant’s escrow account began growing at a rate of $100 per month. Over a 5-year period, accruing $100 per month could result in a $6,000 escrow balance that the FSS participant is eligible to receive at the end of their FSS contract if they meet all FSS graduation requirements. All final FSS escrow fund disbursements are tax-free and FSS graduates are free to use the money without any restrictions.
When will I get access to the funds in my FSS escrow account?
Participants who enroll in the FSS program must sign a five-year contract and establish goals that will assist them to become economically self-sufficient. Participants must successfully achieve all of their self-sufficiency goals, work 32+ hours per week, and be off of welfare assistance for the last year of the participant’s contract (12 consecutive months prior to contract end date) in order to be eligible to receive their escrow funds. There are no restrictions on how FSS escrow funds may be used upon completion of the FSS program. Some participants choose to use their escrow disbursement as a down payment for a home or to purchase a car. Participants may also be eligible to receive an interim FSS escrow account disbursement before they complete the program in order to assist them in accomplishing their interim or final FSS goals.
What type of services does the FSS program offer participants to assist them to achieve their goals?
The FSS program offers participants access to various types of services including, but not limited to, job search/training/retention services, financial literacy, credit counseling, transportation assistance, childcare service information, educational referrals, and financial assistance.