The Santa Monica Housing Authority (SMHA) held a graduation ceremony April 6 honoring 11 families who completed the Family Self-Sufficiency Program and have amassed over $150,000 worth of escrow savings collectively.

The goal of the five-year program is to build stability for the families involved and break the cycle of poverty. The program is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development program administered through the Santa Monica Housing Authority in collaboration with the St. Joseph Center in Venice.

The city of Santa Monica’s Human Services Division provides funding to the St. Joseph Center to give families the skills and experience they need to obtain employment that leads to economic self-sufficiency with the assistance of case managers, employment counseling, credit counseling and job training. The program offers working Section 8 families the opportunity to accumulate savings from increased earnings that are given to the families upon graduation.

“The FSS Program is an excellent way to help families move up the economic ladder toward financial independence,” said Jody Gilbert, family self-sufficiency coordinator for the housing authority. “This year’s graduates, like the ones before them for the past 14 years, are powerful role models for their children and the next generation.”

At the ceremony, five current program participants were also recognized for their ongoing progress in education, career development, employment, family commitment and women’s empowerment, a St. Joseph Center spokesman said.