YMHA Agency honors program graduates

The program helps people meet their goals for housing, jobs and education.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Seven years ago, Deborah Tomlin was unemployed, living in a housing project and looking for a way to improve her life.
Then she signed up for Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority's Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
Today, Tomlin is living in a home on East Philadelphia Avenue and working full-time as a behavior coach at Lincoln Place.
"I've bettered myself," she said.
Tomlin and Glenwood Avenue resident Rose Hollingshead are the first graduates of the Self-Sufficiency program. They were to be honored in a graduation ceremony this morning at the YMHA.
Proud of women: YMHA spokeswoman Claudia Sherry said she was proud of Tomlin and Hollingshead and the efforts they've made to improve their lives.
"I think it's a great, great thing that they've become economically self-sufficient," Sherry said. "That's basically what we're here for."
The self-sufficiency program is designed to help low-income individuals and families meet goals for jobs, housing and education. YMHA officials hope that those who graduate from the program will no longer have to rely on welfare to survive.
"Both these ladies have managed that," Sherry said.
About 103 people are enrolled in the program, Sherry said. To be eligible, an individual must receive federal Section 8 money.
Section 8 is a program that helps pay the rent for a low-income person or family. If that person's income increases, they receive less Section 8 money and must put more of their income toward the rent.
How program works: That also holds true for individuals enrolled in the Self-Sufficiency program. However, instead of going towards the rent, the additional money they pay is placed in a savings account by the YMHA. The YMHA also makes a matching deposit into the account.
When a person graduates from the Self-Sufficiency program, they receive the money in the savings account.
"It's up to them to do whatever is best for them with the money," Sherry said.
The YMHA also uses the Self-Sufficiency program to connect families with employers or local education officials.
Putting funds to use: Hollingshead's goal under the program was to receive a GED. She didn't reach that goal, but she was able to use $1,700 from her savings account to buy a house and move out of public housing.
"When I got it, I was shocked," she said of the money.
Tomlin, meanwhile, received $8,000 by graduating from the program. She said she spent the money on her house payments and her children.

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