Tempe’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program takes top spot in state rankings

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The City of Tempe’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program is the best in the state and has earned a coveted “excellent” designation, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The federal Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program is designed to help low-income families become more financially independent by boosting their earnings and building up savings. 

Tempe’s program ranked No. 1 in the state and 13th in the country among 709 FSS programs nationwide. Of those programs, 143 received the “excellent” rating. 

In reviewing individual FSS programs, HUD officials considered participants’ earnings and graduation rates. They also looked at each program’s participation rates.  

“For the past 15 years, the City of Tempe has been working in partnership with families to help them achieve their potential and gain economic security,” said Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell. “The Family Self-Sufficiency Program plays a vital role in our community every day, helping residents turn the dream of a better future into reality.”

The FSS Program is open to families who receive rental subsidies through the Housing Choice Voucher – or Section 8 – Program. The goals are wide ranging:

• The voluntary employment and savings incentive program aims to help graduates transition off public assistance. 

• Through case management, participants work on short and long-term goals such as completing a general equivalency diploma, or GED. 

• As participants become more self-sufficient and can pay a portion of their rent, funds are deposited into an escrow account to help plan for the future.

Tempe launched its FSS program in 1993 and now works with roughly 68 participants a year. They typically spend five years in the program but some graduate early.

For families struggling to become self-sufficient, a new future can seem out of reach. Any number of obstacles stand in the way, from poor credit to the need for job training to a lack of education. 

“The FSS program opens a whole new world of opportunity for families,” said Naomi Farrell, Tempe’s Human Services Director.  “As participants learn how to become self-sufficient, they can pursue new jobs, change careers, go back to school or work toward purchasing a new home.”

Program graduate Jennifer Johnson, a medical assistant and mom of four, is currently house hunting. Through FSS, she spent five years planning for a more stable financial future and home of her own. 

She said Tempe was her partner every step of the way as she worked to establish good credit and attended classes that hit on everything from financial literacy to housing options through nonprofit organizations.

“I’m a goal-oriented person and the FSS program always gave me something to strive for,” she said. “It was almost like the city held my hand. And when things came along that knocked me down, they had my back. Then I could keep going.”

Read more about Johnson’s story here. Learn more about Tempe’s housing services here and the federal Family Self-Sufficiency Program here.

Media contact: Susie Steckner, [email protected], 480-734-5186

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