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--- Issued March 7, 2016

The recent graduation of Valeriy Momot, his wife Lyudmila, and their nine children from the HACE Public Housing Family Self- Sufficiency (PHFSS) program, was “a very big achievement,” said John E. Horan, executive director of the Authority.
“It shows what we’re all about here,” he said, speaking to the family at a February 5 awards ceremony.

Horan died of natural causes on February 25, but lived for occasions such as this one.

From left, Olga Momot, Lyudmila Momot, Valeriy Momot, John Horan, Walaa Ahmad (assistant director of Quality of Life Learning Center), Lynette Burkhart, and Patreece Johnson

“This program is meant to help people like yourselves get onto their feet, into their own home, and become a part of mainstream society,” Horan said. “Your story is amazing.”

The Momots purchased their home on December 7, 2015, achieving total financial self-sufficiency.

Lynette Burkhart, a developer of the PHFSS Program and the Section 8 Family Self-Sufficiency Program that preceded it, said the efforts of the family are inspiring.  She praised them and their HACE caseworker, Patreece Johnson. (Burkhart is now the Authority’s Section 8 Coordinator and Tenant Selection Assistant Supervisor.)

“With the help of Patreece, the Momots pushed through the complexities of moving to a new county -- learning a new language, finding education for their children, searching for employment, and overcoming many obstacles,” Burkhart said. “And yet, they prevailed. They achieved their goal of financial independence and purchasing their own home. This example has the power to reignite the passion in all of us, tenants and staff alike, to conquer our own goals for and with the Erie Housing Authority.”

PHFSS, established for public housing residents, parallels the Housing Authority’s successful Section 8 Family Self-Sufficiency Program that helps Section 8 participants achieve financial independence.
Under both programs, the Authority establishes an escrow/savings account based on the rental subsidy the participants receive from the Housing Authority.

As the participants move toward economic self-sufficiency through employment and better-paying jobs, their share of the rent increases. The Authority matches these increases with like contributions to an interest-bearing savings account for the family.

When the family is self-sufficient – no longer receiving welfare, housing or other government subsidies – the money in the savings account officially becomes theirs. The savings account can be used to purchase a house, for education, and for debt reduction.

The Momot family moved to the United States April 19, 2001, from Ukraine.  They moved into public housing in 2002.

Valeriy gained immediate employment at Corry Great Lakes Manufacturing. A year later, he obtained full-time employment at Fralo Industries and has been employed there for the last 13 years.

Lyudmila attended ESL classes at the Quality of Life Learning Center from 2006 until purchasing the family home.  She eventually volunteered in the ESL program herself.

Five of  the Momot’s nine children have attended post-secondary education. Two of the children, Svetlana and Roza, are two-time Tullio Scholarship Award winners. The other children plan on attending higher education upon graduation.

“Valeriy knew immediately upon entering the Family Self-Sufficiency Program that he wanted to purchase a home,” said Burkhart. “But he was hesitant with the idea of obtaining a loan from a bank, due to previously losing all assets when the banks crashed in Ukraine.

“He was pre-approved for a home loan on July 20, 2015 but decided not to take it because he did not want to owe money to a bank.”

Instead, she said, “He borrowed the money from family. He obtained the entire $75,000 purchase price of the home from relatives and paid with two checks, $43,000 and $32,000.”

The home is 150 years old and needs a little work. Valeriy and his entire family have been doing the repairs on the home for the last four months.

Horan said that, “When people talk about sending our immigrants back to where they came from,  families like the Momots show that this is exactly the wrong thing. They make our country strong.”