In 2008, Lisa Martchinske was laid off at Delta Airlines. She celebrated her 32nd birthday that same year by moving into public housing. Lisa is a single mother of two and knew the most important thing was finding a home for her and her children. She laughs when she tells people that she lives in her own Beverly Hills … her new adventure. Lisa is grateful for what the Huntsville Housing Authority has done for her and looks forward to attending the self-sufficiency programs and numerous workshops HHA offers from Understanding Your Credit, to How to Save Money at the Grocery Store. She’s working towards a teaching degree at the University of Alabama and can’t wait to jump the next hurdle to self-sufficiency.
Click a name below to view a success story.
Rose is a 60 year old single retiree who loves to cross stitch and attend bingo out at Green Brier BBQ when she can. When she first moved to public housing she was worried about her safety and whether or not it was the right thing for her. Ask her how things are now and Rose will tell you she no longer has to worry about being safe or whether or not she has a home. She says the Huntsville Housing Authority gave her peace-of-mind and a community she can now call home.
Kevin’s mother will be glad to show you all of her son’s awards and accomplishments. In fact, she’ll tell you that the Butler High School grad’s Valedictorian speech at graduation brought tears to most in the crowd. Kevin, who holds a 3.83 GPA and played on his high school’s Varsity Football, Basketball, Soccer and Golf teams, serves as a great role model for teens living in public housing. Kevin says he’s ready to break the cycle of public housing, go to college at UAH on a full academic scholarship, and follow his dreams.
At 17 year old the former public housing resident is most notably known for his accomplishments as an Eagle Scout with Troup 400. In fact, he was chosen out of hundreds of thousands of scouts nationwide to present the National State of Scouting address to Congress in March 2009, where he had the opportunity to shake the hand of President Barack Obama and give the First Lady a hug. Mayor Tommy Battle even designated February 23, Tory Green Day. For Tory, he uses his accomplishments as a way to show other public housing teens how they can change their future for the better. In 2013 Tory replaced Mr. Farrar as the scout master of troup 400. He is also currently a police officer with the Huntsville Police Department.
Angel Pennington doesn’t look like your typical public housing resident. In fact, when she tells people where she lives, she habitually gets the same reaction – aren’t you scared? But this hairdresser and make-up artist is perfectly content with her home. In fact, she says most of the time she feels so safe she rarely locks the front door. She credits her neighbors for always helping out whether it’s for a cup of sugar or to watch her young son. And she says, because she lives in such a tight nit community it will make it difficult to leave. For Angel, the Huntsville Housing Authority is just the first step to financial security and one day owning the home of her dreams.
Joseph moved into public housing with his two young sons in January 2009, after losing his job, investments and facing homelessness. The single father, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Franklin University in Columbus Ohio, says it was a humiliating experience moving into public housing. However, he didn’t want to worry about his children having a home and he knew that this was a spring board to the road of financial recovery. He says like most people, he had his own stereotypical views of public housing, but has since come to realize that there are a lot of residents just like him – hard working families struggling to change their lives for the better. Joseph says he’s grateful that an organization like the Huntsville Housing Authority is available to those in need. He spends nearly every day searching for work in HHA’s Oscar Mason Center’s Computer Lab and looks forward to the day that he can have a better life for him and his boys.
At age 33, Katrina Alexander is a single parent and the proud owner of a brand new home. It didn’t happen overnight. Katrina became a participant of the Huntsville Housing Authority’s Section 8 Program in June 2001. She participated in the program for 10 years and credits it with helping her to accomplish many goals – including becoming a the owner of a brand new home in Madison County. In 2003, Katrina enrolled at Alabama A&M University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a dual enrollment for Early Childhood. She graduated in 2008. Upon completion of three more classes, she will earn her Master’s in Early Childhood/Elementary Education. “I’ll get into the doctoral program before too long,’ Katrina says. “I want to teach at the college level.” While Katrina was pursuing her education, she wasn’t able to work full-time hours, attend school full-time and pay maximum rent. Instead, the Section 8 program allowed Katrina to continue to achieve her goals. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program provides assistance for low-income families in the private rental market through the Housing Assistance Payments Program. Housing Choice Voucher holders select a unit from the private rental market. Rental assistance makes market rate housing affordable. Program participants normally pay no more than 30% of their monthly-adjusted income towards rent and utilities. The Housing Assistance Program subsidizes the balance of the rent to the property owner. “It gave me the opportunity to keep going,” Katrina says. “I used it as a safety net when I had to work part-time while finishing school.” Carmisia Danson, Katrina’s Section 8 case manager, started encouraging Katrina to join the Family Self-Sufficiency program three or four years ago. She finally took that step in November 2010.
FSS is a voluntary program designed to assist HHA residents in becoming financially independent and free of public assistance. As a resident’s income increases, part of their rent goes into an escrow account which they can use to help pay to move into a home of their own. “A lot of people have an unfounded fear about FSS, that once they are on it for five years that they can no long qualify for Section 8, but that’s not necessarily true,” Carmisia says. “Katrina took her time applying for the program. Then when she did, the next thing that happened is she got a job and her income tripled.” Carmisia says because of Katrina’s hesitation to join FSS, she has a smaller escrow account. But as her income went up, Katrina no longer needed rent assistance and she began looking at her options.
But Katrina is thankful for the help she received with living expenses. “I always have a goal – but this one I never truly believed would have happened for me without a husband,’ she says. Now she has a good job and has discovered she can make it on her own. She and her daughters, ages 13 and 18-months couldn’t be happier. “My 13-year-old loves the backyard,” Katrina says. “She’s already talking about getting one of those little baby pools for her sister.” Overall, Katrina says living in public housing and taking advantage of its programs has changed her life. “I’m still in awe. When I was growing up, my uncle, aunt, cousins and my family all stayed in the same house,” she says. “Looking back, I don’t understand how everybody fit so this experience is something I’ve never had. I thought it was a big deal when we moved into an apartment and I had my own room.” Now, she and her daughters each have their own bedroom.
“As soon as I got the position (November 2010) I waited my 30-days to get two check stubs and I applied in January for the house,” she says. Katrina put in a backup bid on the first house she looked at in Towne Lakes, on Zeirdt Road in Triana. “After seeing it for the first time I talked to the Lord and told him ‘This is where I want to be.’ ” She found out that her backup bid was accepted in February. Then she signed the papers on March 18. “I just want to be an example to my children,” Katrina says. “And be an example to the other single women out there. Some of my friends told me to wait until I had a husband, but I went ahead and I’m so glad I did.”
Carmisia is especially proud of Katrina’s accomplishments. “She is proof that just because you are a single mother, it does not mean that you cannot go to work and go to school and complete an education to better yourself,” Carmisia says.
Tawanda Jones is living in her own home after becoming one of six HHA Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program graduates in 2011. The FSS graduates came from Butler Terrace, Lincoln Park, Scattered Sites (Pre-Homeownership Program), and Stone Manor communities. Combined, they have received more than $20,000 in escrow disbursements from their FSS escrow accounts.
Ms. Jones enrolled in the FSS Program in June of 2009 with one major focus: homeownership. To reach this goal, Ms. Jones enrolled in a local college, and started a savings account. Eventually, she became a Habitat for Humanity Program participant, while maintaining full-time employment and going to school. Working toward this goal was not easy, but it was definitely accomplishable with the help of her FSS Coordinator and Homeownership Coordinator to guide and continue to motivate her.
In May, Ms. Jones will graduate from J. F. Drake State Technical College with her Associate’s Degree.
“As her FSS Coordinator, I was excited to see her become a homeowner,” says Patrice Boddie, her former FSS coordinator. The FSS Program is voluntary and designed to assist HHA residents to become financially independent and free of public assistance. With the support of local agencies and businesses, FSS combines individual case management, education, and training to aid families in becoming self-sufficient.
Maurice McCaulley is set to graduate Columbia High School in May and has been awarded two scholarships valued at $10,000 to help him pay for college.
“I am very proud that McCaulley is the first student ever to receive two scholarships from the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association (PHADA),” said Michael Lundy, executive director/CEO of the Huntsville Housing Authority.
With a cumulative GPA of 4.551, McCaulley wants to study International Politics, History and English. He has applied and been accepted to Georgetown University, University of North Alabama, University of Tennessee, Birmingham Southern and Mississippi State University.
More than 100 applications were completed and eligible for PHADA’s three annual scholarships, said Brenda Westfall, executive director of the Ithaca Housing Authority in New York and chairperson of the PHADA Scholarship Committee.
“It was a tough competition,” Westfall said. “Maurice is a very impressive young man. It was about 7 p.m. one evening when I finally tracked him down and he was so surprised and so thankful.”
She said McCaulley won a $5,000 scholarship given by the Home Depot (HD) Supply Facilities Maintenance. He also won the $5,000 Freedom & Civil Rights Scholarship.
“This was not just about his outstanding academic performance, but also about what he wrote,” she said.
“I have lived in public housing the majority of my life and for the longest time I was ashamed to admit this. I feared people would judge me based on the ‘consensus’ of how where I lived “functions” and my families’ economic status rather than by what I brought to the table,” McCaulley wrote.
“Over the years, however, public housing has been a welcome relief for my family and I have come to regard my living in this housing system as a blessing. It is through public housing that I had the opportunity to participate in Boy Scouts of America, have summer jobs … I have seen the effects of not taking hold of one’s opportunities and I have seen people my age take the wrong paths. After finally accepting where I come from I accepted a part of who I am. It’s now that I understand how my past will affect my future.”