In the News

Housing Authority program gives tenants hope

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Story written by: Eric Wiley, Salina Journal

http://www.salina.com/news/20170918/housing-authority-program-gives-tenants-hope 

Earlier this year Kelsi Giebler, of Salina, accomplished one of her lifelong goals.

Although owning a house was on her bucket list, the 32-year-old said that three or four years ago she didn’t think she’d be able to own a home “so soon.”

At the time, she lived in public housing through the Salina Housing Authority and struggled to balance classes at Brown Mackie College and life at home with her son Ian Giebler, now 7.

In June 2013, Giebler enrolled in the Housing Authority’s Family Self-Sufficiency program, and “that’s when I was able to focus more and have someone there to guide me,” she said.

Giebler is one of 25 to 30 people who participate each year in the program.

“When someone leases with us for public housing or Section 8, I try my best to reach out to them and let them know about the program. We want to help them seek and maintain suitable employment,” said KaySue Nothern, program coordinator.

Encourages saving

There are two focuses of the program, Nothern said — the case management side “where I motivate and meet up with tenants to discuss goals and needs,” and creation of an escrow, or savings account.

“The escrow fund is based on any increase in their (tenant’s) earned income,” Nothern said. “If there is an increase in their income such as a raise or more hours, we take the difference between their new earned income and what they were making — if they were working before — and place it in a savings account that we call an escrow account.”

Nothern said the escrow account motivates tenants to seek higher-paying, sustainable jobs and advance their education.

“We do so many things to help our tenants be successful in the program and the escrow fund is one of them,” she said. “I’ve seen the fund change their lives and push them to progress in their careers.”

Instills pride

Giebler said she received $12,710 from her escrow fund after graduating from the program early. She used the money for a down-payment on her home.

“It’s a fantastic program that helped me accomplish one of my lifelong dreams of becoming a homeowner. It helped give me a sense of accomplishment,” she said. If anyone can take advantage of it (program), they should. Now, I’m a better role model for my son. Any chance he gets, he tells everyone we have a house.”

Helps motivate

Nothern said after she reaches out to potential clients, the next step is an interview.

“I’m really screening for motivation. We want to find those who want to get out of their current situation and find better jobs,” she said. “It’s then important that we set short-term, mid-term and longterm goals. If someone needs additional assistance, we help connect them with community services and agencies that will help them meet their goals.”

Rhonda Howell, 30, is currently in the program and said it keeps her grounded.

“She (Nothern) keeps me on track and helps me to be productive and not procrastinate as much,” she said. “Since I’ve joined the program I’ve gotten a better-paying job and been able to advance my career.”

Grants for school

For the past four years, the program has received a grant from the Greater Salina Community Foundation to pay for allied health care courses at Salina Area Technical College for tenants.

Howell, who benefited from the grant, went from working in home health and “not getting enough hours,” she said, to becoming a specialty tech at Salina Regional Health Center.

“The program helped me get my CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and CMA (Certified Medical Assistant) through Salina Tech,” she said.

Howell said the program also helped her purchase needed supplies, such as uniform scrubs.

Giving hope

“The program really takes away a lot of the stress you may have to deal with,” Howell said. “No one wants to be in the middle of class thinking about, ‘How am I going to pay for this class?’ I appreciate everything that she (Nothern) and the program have done for me and my children.”

Howell, who has two children — Dakota Howell, 11, and Makinzy Howell, 6 — is taking classes at Hutchinson Community College in hopes of becoming a registered nurse.

Nothern said the program may be able to pay for some of her elective courses.

“This program is sort of a hidden gem in the city. It really has a positive impact on our tenants’ future,” she said. “I’ve seen this program give people hope.”