A lack of transportation, driver’s license, and child care, along with limited work experience created barriers for her to reach employment. This is where Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority and Greenleaf Family Center aided her.
De’Oliveira began the Family Self Sufficiency Program program in 2006. She needed housing and programming for her kids to help her grow.
“I was struggling with money and housing and with caring for my children,” she said.
According to AMHA’s website, Family Self Sufficiency Program was established to help public housing and housing choice voucher program residents become economically self sufficient.
The basic steps to participate in the FSS Program are:
• Participants must be in AMHA housing and call to receive an application to be placed on the FSS Wait List. You will be contacted when a program slot is available.
• Staff meets to sign the FSS Contract of Participation and to help participants establish and document goals, as well as identify resources that will help them become more independent and less dependent on any kind of subsidy.
• Once individuals either begin working or their current working income increases, they may begin earning “escrow” which is a savings account that they will receive at the end of the successful completion of the FSS Contract.
By 2011, De’Oliveira was able purchase her first home. Even though this was a huge accomplishment for her, she said she feels her biggest one was purchasing a car through Greenleaf’s auto loan program, Ways to Work.
“I was struggling because I was walking to work through rain and snow, and I was pregnant,” she added.
Although the nationwide Ways to Work program no longer exists in Akron due to funding, it helped low-income workers like De’Oliveira get reduced interest loans on used cars. She obtained her driver’s license in 2008 and successfully purchased a car afterwards.
“In 2002, we were given a grant from the Department of Transportation,” said Robert Sukel, program manager for financial services at Greenleaf. “It was a great program and we are still looking for funding sources.”
Sukel said he handpicked the loan committee that consisted of bankers, attorneys, and social services workers, but he wanted a former client for the group, as well.
“Ana fit the mold,” he said. “It defies words having a client like her. It’s a good feeling knowing you have something that can help someone help themselves.”
Although she didn’t need Greenleaf’s other financial services, Sukel said many clients use their credit and bankruptcy counseling services. Sukel said Ana was successful because she utilized so many nonprofits in the area and had the determination to reach her goals, despite any obstacles she faced.
“Too many people get taken advantage of because they are uninformed or misinformed,” he said. “We want to help people get back on their feet, no matter the income level. Many times it seems like everything has gotten away from clients and they continue a lifestyle they really can’t afford. Money is too expensive to waste and we want to help.”
De’Oliveira said she gained knowledge working on the committee and it felt good to help others like herself since purchasing a car opened up a lot of doors for her and her family.
“When I was younger I was in an orphanage and I felt a lot was taken away from me. In my heart, I want to get back those years that were taken,” she said. “I know how people feel when they don’t have people to help them, to love them. I want to give back and I want my kids to give back.”
Greenleaf Family Center recently celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2012. On March 9, 2013, they will host their annual Night at the Races fundraiser to help support all programs at Greenleaf. For more information about this even and Greenleaf’s services, please visit http://www.greenleafctr.org/content/. For more information about AMHA, please visit, http://www.akronhousing.org/index2.aspx.