Friday, June 23, 2000

Program helped woman buy new home

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Adversity settled on Donna Lawson's doorstep several years ago. A series of events pushed her into poverty and the need for government assistance for her and her children. But she never gave up hope and vowed to one day find a way to purchase her own home and leave public assistance behind.

        That day arrived Wednesday, when she received a check for $1,457 dollars from the FSS (Family Self Sufficiency) escrow fund handled by the local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office and Brighton Center.

        That money, Ms. Lawson said, will go toward a down payment.

        “You have to keep the desire to make things better for your children and yourself,” Ms. Lawson said. “I received a lot of help along the way, but I never lost sight of my goal.”

        Ms. Lawson, a 37-year-old Fort Thomas native, was married at 16 and had a baby girl within a year, followed by a daughter four years later and a son two years after that. She and her husband both worked and life wasn't bad.

        “Then everything started to fall apart,” she said.

        “A divorce and a traumatic custody battle, illness in the family and the death of my father. Things seemed to be crumbling around me, and I moved to California and lived with relatives just to get away.”

        She had a job in California, but she became homesick for Northern Kentucky.

        She returned about five years ago, she said, because her daughter became violently ill, “and I realized that my ex-husband and I would have to put our hurt and anger aside to raise our three children, who needed their father.”

        Back in Kentucky, she had no home, no job and no money.

        “We lived with my family, but we were a financial drain on them,” she said. “My ex-husband became disabled and was unable to help us financially.”

        She said she turned to HUD for help, and after almost three months on the housing list, she found a

        three-bedroom house in Bellevue that accepted HUD subsidies.

        She began working as an operations assistant at Premiere Industries in Covington in August 1997 and moved into the Bellevue house in January of 1998.

        “I learned about the FSS program, which HUD runs through Brighton Center,” Ms. Lawson said. “It was the answer to my prayers. The people at Brighton Center helped me in so many ways, like setting goals to enable me to become self sufficient, as well as credit counseling and education.”

        The FSS program allows people who can pay their own rent to place the amount normally paid by HUD into an escrow account.

        Mark Brown, executive director of the HUD's Newport Housing Authority and one of Ms. Lawson's biggest supporters, explained, “Donna wasn't able to put a great deal away each week, but every time she had a salary raise she would increase the escrow.

        “She is what the FSS program is all about. She's a role model for people who want to help themselves.”

        Now, with pre-approval for an FHA loan and down payment money in the bank, Ms. Lawson is house hunting.


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