--- Issued February 19, 2014

On February 19,  the Erie Times-News printed the following article, by reporter Gerry Weiss, about a resident of Erie's public housing who, through her own initiative and the help of the Erie Housing Authority,  climbed out of poverty:

Andrea Harris, Center, was one of four HACE Family Self-Sufficiency Program graduates who left Section 8 Housing to buy her own home in 2013.  She is shown at an FSS graduation ceremony with John E. Horan, executive director of the Authority, and Lynette Burkhart, FSS coordinator.

 "A single mother from Erie who climbed out of poverty will have a free high-efficiency furnace installed in her home by a Millcreek Township business.

Andrea Harris, 42, a home health care worker for the elderly and disabled, received the "Warming Families" award Tuesday from Erie Together, the local anti-poverty project, and Nerthling's Heating & Air Conditioning in Millcreek.


The new gas furnace and installation are valued at about $4,000, said Dave Nerthling, owner of Nerthling's, 1606 Lehigh Street.


The furnace will be installed March 1.


"I feel so blessed," said Harris, who lives with her 19-year-old daughter and 11-month-old grandson. "This means so much to me and my family."


Harris bought a house on West Seventh Street in early December. Her furnace is more than 40 years old and in need of major repairs. Her heating bills are nearly $350 a month.


"Her furnace should have been replaced 15 years ago. This new system will cut those bills in half, hopefully more," Nerthling said. "We want to make sure we help the people who really need help. This is a hand up, not a hand out."


The "Warming Families" program encourages self-sufficiency for families working hard to help themselves.


The first winner of the award, in 2013, was Okmi Sul, an immigrant from South Korea. She lived in Erie with her son in a 100-year-old home.


Coordinators on Tuesday said Harris demonstrated a commitment to attaining self-sufficiency through a series of programs run by St. Martin Center and the Erie Housing Authority, which nominated Harris for the award.


Harris in 2006 began saving money toward the purchase of her new home. She also paid off debt and student loans, said Lynette Burkhart, family self-sufficiency coordinator for the Erie Housing Authority.


The criteria for the "Warming Families" program requires homeownership, a furnace that is older than 10 years, making progress in managing money and submitting an essay that described how the award would affect the family, officials said.


"Andrea Harris knew what she wanted, put a plan together, and followed through with everything she had to to create a better life for herself and her family," said Mary Bula, Erie Together's project facilitator and a vice president for the United Way of Erie County, which coordinators the anti-poverty project."