Funding assists Westbrook Housing residents

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WESTBROOK — Westbrook Housing has received almost $43,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help low-income residents become financially stable and independent.

U.S. senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Angus King, announced last month that nine Maine cities and towns would be receiving funds for housing programs. Westbrook Housing has received the grant for several years now.

“Maine’s housing authorities provide a vital service to seniors, individuals with disabilities, and low-income families,” Sens. Collins and King said in a joint statement. “By supporting public housing agencies, these grants will help connect Mainers with the resources they need to achieve economic independence.”

Housing authorities in Old Town, Caribou, Portland, Augusta, Bangor, Brewer and Lewiston also received grants, as did the Maine State Housing Authority. The grants totaled almost $450,000.

Westbrook Housing received $42,870 this year, which is typical, according to Supportive Services Director Michelle York. The money is used for Westbrook Housing’s Family Self-Sufficiency program, which helps families with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers become employed or receive additional education.

“I try to connect people with employment or education,” said Mary Bouvier, the FSS coordinator. “Anything to help them be self-sufficient.”

Bouvier applies for the grant every year and uses the money to help families become more stable. There are 28 people going through the program right now and Bouvier hopes to recruit more. Aside from the Section 8 housing requirement, the biggest thing people need to be eligible for the program is motivation.

“You have to want to become self-sufficient,” Bouvier said. “You have to meet your goals.”

Each person in the program works with Bouvier to create a five-year plan for themselves. Some pursue employment or higher education while others are working to own a home or start their own business. During the program, an escrow savings account is created for each person using the grant money. If they meet all of their goals at the end of the five years, they will receive the funds. Bouvier said a number of factors play into how much each person receives and that there’s no average amount.

Anyone interested in completing the FSS program can contact Bouvier at 854-6822. She said people in communities surrounding Westbrook can apply as long as they have Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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