Please read the success stories of NYCHA residents to see how they have benefitted from the Office of Resident Economic Empowerment & Sustainability (REES) partnerships in the areas of adult education, employment and advancement, financial empowerment, and business development.
Financial Literacy & Asset Building Unit
Family Self Sufficiency Program (FSS)
When Ebony, a tenant in NYCHA’s Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program, graduated from the Family Self Sufficiency program, she had a hard-earned graduation “present” of over $8,500 waiting for her. She also had an Associate of Science degree and a Bachelor of Science degree from Touro College to support her employment goals. Without FSS, Ebony said, the graduations may never have happened.
The Section 8 program provides housing assistance to very low income New Yorkers in the form of subsidies to help them afford apartment rentals. With the federally-sponsored FSS program offered through Section 8, participants may also receive the assistance, support, and referrals necessary to gain economic self-sufficiency through education, training and employment placement.
“When you join the program, we ask that you sign a five-year Contract of Participation, where tenants affirm their goal of becoming economically self-sufficient by the end of the contract period,” explained Ernst Louis, REES FSS Coordinator. “This is defined as not receiving public assistance in the form of cash payments and being suitably employed.”
Participants in the program are assigned a case manager who helps them first formulate clear goals, and then plan a course of action to achieve interim goals that lead to economic self-sufficiency. Two of Ebony’s goals upon entering the program were to earn an Associate of Science degree, which she obtained, and then a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services, which she earned two years later.
Joining the FSS program as a single parent in her 20s, Ms. Hood already held a part time job to supplement her income from public assistance. While pursuing her Associate’s degree and caring for four children, she increased her earnings by working as a direct care counselor for the Association for the Help of Retarded Children. Upon completing her Bachelor’s degree, she worked as a mental health counselor for the community non-profit Services for the Underserved.
Since Section 8 renters pay 30 percent of their income toward their rent, a significant part of the income from Ebony’s employment would normally go to pay the rent increase. However, the unique FSS program enables participants to deposit the increased rental charges that a family pays as its earnings rise into a separate account. When FSS participants graduate from the program, they gain access to the account.
“That money was very important. It came just in time to help me reach my goals,” Ebony explained. Those goals now include expanding her home-based business as a beauty and wellness professional in addition to further developing a seven-woman not-for-profit collaborative network. Through these initiatives, Ebony is not only economically self-sufficient; she is giving back to the community by donating 25 percent of her income to community organizations. Ebony also plans to resume course work toward her Master of Science degree at Touro College to become a licensed Mental Health counselor.
If you are a NYCHA Section 8 vouch holder, please visit our rent incentives page to learn about the FSS program and how you may qualify.
Adult Education and Job Training
Green Maintenance for Buildings, New York City College of Technology
Gerron is a 31 year NYCHA resident from Brooklyn. He learned about REES through his Housing Assistant when he inquired about employment assistance. Gerron contacted REES and was scheduled for an Information Session.
At the REES information session Gerron learned about the Green Maintenance for Buildings (GMB) training provided by the New York City College of Technology (City Tech) and met one on one with a REES Assessment Specialist after the session to learn more about how this training could kept him meet his employment goals as a single father. Gerron enrolled and graduated from the program.
REES and City Tech worked closely to assist GMB graduates who were NYCHA residents to apply for a Painters Apprenticeship program run through NYCHA. This was the opportunity Gerron sought! Gerron worked closely with City Tech and ultimately obtained employment with NYCHA as a Painter’s Apprentice. He is very grateful for his time at City Tech because he feels what he learned prepared him for his current position, “My training at City Tech taught me what kind of paint to use on sheet rock, how paint can affect an electrical outlet and which type of paint to use on pipes. NYCHA’s Professional Development and Training taught me about specific types of paint; such as oil and latex and I apply this knowledge daily.”
Gerron is also very grateful for the impact that REES services has had on his life. “REES gave me opportunities to progress in life and has helped me achieve career goals. Thanks to their services I can pay my rent, feed my son and be a provider. In the future I hope that I can become a full-fledged Painter with NYCHA.”
Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center (MEOC)
Ufuoma, a Manhattan NYCHA resident was interested in a short training that would provide her with the certifications needed to obtain employment. One day, in her building’s lobby, she saw a flyer promoting an information session with the Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center (MEOC).
Ufuoma attended the event, organized by REES, and spoke with MEOC about their upcoming Security Officer Training Program. It was just what she needed to renew her expired eight and sixteen hour security certificate. Although, completing the Security Guard training was a struggle because of childcare limitations for her young daughter, Ufuoma persevered, completing the training and gaining knowledge about her possible career options.
Ufuoma awaits her New York State Security Guard license in the mail and is currently working with MEOC’s employment assistance division to secure stable employment. Ufuoma states, “The MEOC can help me achieve my goals because the training received can lead me to a higher paying job. I plan to utilize my earnings to fund and fuel my long term goals. I’m a Fashion Designer and a creator. I want to own my brand and the rights to my music. A reliable paying job is the only way I can make my designs and ambitions a reality.” Ufuoma continues to work hard in pursuit of her ultimate goals.
Learn more about REES partnerships near you.
NYCHA Resident Training Academy
Kasheem is a resident from Wagner Houses. Prior to applying for the NYCHA Resident Training Academy (NRTA), Kasheem experienced a long period of unemployment. Due to this, he was not very optimistic that he would find employment quickly. He decided to apply to the NRTA’s Construction training track in hopes that he could enter the construction field and one day gain union membership. In the program he learned about the different trades and gained the respect of his instructors for his outstanding skills. He demonstrated his desire to work and his potential to grow in this industry. Toward the end of the program, Kasheem was referred to two Section 3 opportunities. To his surprise, both Section 3 contractors offered him employment the same morning. He thought it was too good to be true, particularly after so many years of unemployment. He chose to work with Alliance Elevator Company as an Elevator Apprentice with Local 1. His dream to enter a union came true sooner than he thought possible.
Kasheem shared, “not only did I get two job offers but I was employed before graduation, and I am working as a Local 1 Elevator Apprentice. This is real and it has changed my life.” Today, Mr. Dunkley continues to work with Alliance, and began a new contract in March 2014. He is very grateful to REES and its partners for helping make his dreams of finding gainful employment a reality.
To learn more about the NYCHA Resident Training Academy, please visit the NRTA Main Page.
Employment and Advancement
Section 3 Employment
HAKS, a NYCHA Contractor, shared its positive experience working with NYCHA’s Section 3 and NRTA training programs, stating that working with REES has helped the company streamline their efforts on multiple NYCHA assignments. HAKS lists as one of its most rewarding experiences the collaboration between NYCHA, HAKS and other entities to train and place NYCHA residents on construction projects. Stressing their commitment to professional development, HAKS offers each Section 3 employee the opportunity to participate in in-house professional development programs, offered to all HAKS employees, upon completion of an initial evaluation period.
According to HAKS, REES Contract Monitors have consistently provided excellent lists of qualified candidates for open positions and have ensured that each proposed resident meets all of the required qualifications. HAKS notes that the recent addition of NYCHA resident, Ms. McIntyre, in the role of Office Engineer has proven to be an exceptionally good experience.
Ms. McIntyre possessed strong clerical skills and quickly learned how to use NYCHA’s project management software. She produced detailed Excel spreadsheets and maintained large amounts of documentation for the project. HAKS states that she is a team player, and accurately follows instructions and guidelines provided by other team members to successfully complete her assigned tasks on time.
The opportunity has also allowed Ms. McIntyre to utilize and grow her professional skills.
Small Job Orders
Wilfred, a Lincoln Houses resident, saw a REES flyer posted in his development for a Mount Sinai Medical Center job fair last September. He attended the REES pre-screening events for Mount Sinai Medical Center but unfortunately was not selected for the job. A REES Assessment Specialist reached back out to him and scheduled him for an appointment to learn more about employment opportunities with Lincoln Center, another REES employment partner. Wilfred was excited at the prospect of obtaining employment with the Lincoln Center. Prior to being referred to the Lincoln Center, Wilfred had worked as a maintenance worker for 17 years where he gained experience plastering, cleaning, waxing, and stripping floors. At REES’ office, he was successfully prescreened and his application and resume were submitted to Lincoln Center.
Wilfred was hired and started working at Lincoln Center on February 2014, earning a living wage and union benefits. He reports having a very good working relationship with his employer and commented that they hold his work in high regard. According to Wilfred, “One day I was supposed to go to lunch, but I gave up my lunch to clean up a big mess. When my supervisor realized what I did, I was commended. I felt so proud.”
Wilfred is very grateful for his Assessment Specialist, Ms. Grant, who prepared him for the interview. “Everything that she prepared me for is exactly what I was told and asked at the job interview.” He feels that REES has been instrumental in helping to make the connection to this current employer. Wilfred plans to continue maximizing his work and hopes to be able to go back to school for construction in the near future if his work schedule permits.
Employment and Advancement and Financial Literacy
Mount Sinai Medical Center & Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners (NTFP)
Charles is a Manhattan NYCHA resident who had been assigned to Human Resources Administration’s (HRA) Work Experience Program (WEP). His goal in WEP was to learn valuable job skills while working towards a permanent job and self-sufficiency. One day Charles saw a flyer posted in the lobby of his development for potential employment opportunities at Mount Sinai Medical Center through REES. The flyer mentioned that the event would begin promptly at 10 am but Charles was so excited for this opportunity that he arrived at 8 am! The Job Fair event consisted of a 3 day workshop hosted by REES which included an Information Session, Employment Fundamentals Workshop and Pre-screening. Charles attended every event, met the requirements, and was successfully prescreened by REES staff.
NYCHA REES established a partnership with Mount Sinai Medical Center through Speaker Viverito’s Office and resident leadership at Carver Houses. REES East Harlem Zone Coordinator, Jose Calderon, and Human Resources at Mt. Sinai Medical Center worked together to develop an employment strategy to connect residents to entry level positions.
During the application and interview stage, Charles felt a good connection with the staff at the hospital. He continuously connected with the East Harlem Zone Coordinator on his progress and was patient during the interview process. Charles was extremely proud when he learned he was hired out of 30 people from the general community who interviewed for the same position.
While he waited for a final decision from Mt. Sinai, Charles also participated in Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners (NTFP) Getting Ahead Series in East Harlem organized by REES. Charles decided to participate in the 5 week program to prepare his finances once his employment goal was achieved.
Charles obtained employment with the hospital and soon after applied for the Earned Income Disallowance (EID) through his Property Management office. Charles had learned about this rent incentive through REES’s awareness campaign which included a feature in the NYCHA Journal.
Today, Charles is very grateful to have reached his ultimate goal of finding gainful employment in his community. He feels very connected to his neighborhood and the added bonus is he doesn’t have to pay train fare! Charles is grateful to HRA for supporting him during a tough period in his life and is thankful to REES for providing him with a gateway to a career with a stable employer like Mount Sinai Medical Center. His story is a great outcome of REES’s efforts to coordinate services with local partners to support residents to increase their income and assets.
To learn about what REES partner services are available in your neighborhood, click here.
Resident Business Development
International Coaching Federation/Women’s Initiative
Jasmine immigrated to the US alone at 13 years old to help a family with childcare, but she dreamt of a better life. In the years since arriving in this country, she consistently struggled to gain stable employment. At one point, things were so bad that she spent a year living in a homeless shelter with her young daughter.
Jasmine began cleaning seven years ago to support herself and her daughter, and after receiving numerous compliments from clients, she decided to turn her job into a business. The only problem was that she needed help drafting a business plan to transform her idea into a reality.
When Women’s Initiative expanded to New York, Jasmine was finally able to learn the skills she needed in their 11-week Simple Steps class that she learned about through REES. She explains that “the energy in the room” and the bonds she formed with the other entrepreneurs further motivated her to persevere. She learned how to create a winning business plan as well as how to price her services and forecast future sales. Since graduating the program, she has gathered potential employees, developed a training manual for her team, and set up a website. She became a Success Link member, which provided her with ongoing business coaching and personal consulting, and continued to attend Women’s Initiative workshops to gain further advice. Jasmine says she is determined to make “See That Girl’s Cleaning Service” a household name.
Unfortunately Women’s Initiative closed their doors in March of 2014 but that was not the end of Jasmine’s story. She continued to receive services through other REES Zone Partners including the International Coaching Federation that provided her with her own personal business coach. Since then Jasmine has secured a cleaning contract with NYCHA.
Learn more about Jasmine’s experience in this video. All of the women in this video attended Women’s Initiative seminars organized and promoted by REES.
Inspired? Click here for more information about how NYCHA residents can start or grow a business.