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LYNN — Helping people build stable and successful lives means guiding them to financial self sufficiency, said Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development (LHAND) Executive Director Charles J. Gaeta.
The agency’s Family Success Center operates more than a dozen financial assistance and education programs from its Curwin Circle, 117 Franklin St. and 10 Church St., locations. They are not limited to LHAND tenants and they are linked to other city, as well as state agencies, providing a broad range of services.
The Residential Assistance to Families in Transition program helped 300 people last year pay overdue rent and utilities to cover moving costs. Thirty families teetering on homelessness got help finding housing, beginning with applications they filed through the Department of Transitional Assistance office in Salem’s Shetland Park complex.
A Family Success financial coaching program helped 120 people last year strengthen family budget-making skills and improve their credit scores.
Its origins as a housing agency is just part of LHAND’s history of transformation into a source of services for helping people live more stable lives.
“Social services are an important piece of what a family needs to stabilize. A roof isn’t always enough,” said Family Success Program Portfolio Manager Michelle D’Amico.
She said residents often come to LHAND’s offices with looming homelessness or joblessness worrying them. D’Amico and Family Success Center Programs Manager Sara Johnson help identify all the problems in their lives contributing to their most significant return.
“We do an initial assessment and come up with a to-do list and then the clients comes up with one goal,” she said.
Another Family Success program, Jobs Plus, helps guide Curwin Circle public housing residents to better-paying jobs and provides attorney referrals to clear up court record obstacles to employment.
D’Amico works with public school social workers who are on the lookout for students whose families are swamped by housing and money troubles. Then they find ways to guide families to financial stability.
Some people who seek out the Family Success Center’s help need advice on how to obtain a job that can cover their expenses.
Gaeta said the Family Success Center’s work is crucial at a time when Lynn’s 1.5 percent housing vacancy rate is historically low and rents are prohibitively high.
“It’s a huge challenge,” he said.
LHAND relies on $100,000 annually from United Way to support Family Success and $150,000 a year from the Siemer Institute, an Ohio-based charity seeking to end youth homelessness and economic instability. Family Success has also forged close links with the Lynn public schools, Bridgewell, Lynn Community Health Center and workforce development agency MassHire as well as Jewish Vocational Services.