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--- Updated September 6, 2007

"It’s hard to feel proud for doing the right thing," says Brian Cabaday, 32, 700 block of Weschler Avenue. But that's exactly what he and his family were honored for on Thursday by the Housing Authority of the City of Erie.

The Brian Cabaday family was honored by HACE and John E. Horan, left, at an 11 a.m. press conference at the main office of the Erie Housing Authority, 606 Holland Street.

Brian Cabaday, 32, 700 block of Weschler Avenue, is the first “graduate” of the Authority’s Section 8 Family Self-Sufficiency Program. While there are 43 Section 8 families in the program, Cabaday was the first to meet all the requirements for self-sufficiency. Now working fulltime as a paralegal with the Moore law firm, 129 W. 9th Street, Cabaday, his wife Marcia, and their two daughters have been free of all financial assistance for a year, which is a pre-requisite for graduation. “I feel good about this,” Cabaday said. “You always hear about people abusing the system and milking it. I didn’t want to be one of those people.”

John E. Horan, excutive director or of the Authority, said that Cabaday's graduation was a big step forward toward the Authority's fulfilling an important part of its mission statement: "to foster among the residents we serve economic self-sufficiency."

"We thank you for creating a role model for other members of our section 8 family," Horan said at the press conference.

"I'm glad I was able to use the program when we needed it -- and then get off of it when we didn't," Cabaday said.

Section 8 is a federal assistance program provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Under Section 8, eligible families lease a rental unit in the private sector and pay a portion of the rent, generally around 30 percent of their income. The local housing authority pays the landlord the remaining rent.

The Section 8 Family Self-Sufficiency Program that motivated Cabaday works this way: participating families agree to work toward becoming self-sufficient. This means reducing and eventually ending their dependence on welfare and Section 8 financial assistance. When a family enters the program, the Erie Housing Authority establishes an escrow/savings account for them based on the rental subsidy they receive from the Housing Authority. As the participant improves his or her job, education, and income, the Authority reduces the amount of money it pays toward the participant’s rent and instead, puts that money into an interest-bearing savings account. When the family is self-sufficient -- no longer receiving welfare, housing, or other subsidies, the money in the escrowed savings account becomes officially theirs.

HACE gave Cabaday and his family a check for just over $500. He’ll put that money toward the purchase of a car. He would have received more money had he been in the program longer – it only took him a year and a half to graduate.

“It’s not the money so much that was important to me, it was the motivation the program provided,” he said. “I went from being unemployed and married with kids, and on public assistance, to becoming totally self-sufficient. Am I proud of that? It’s hard to feel proud for doing the right thing. I am thankful to the Housing Authority of the City of Erie for helping me do that.”

Cabaday says he loves his job at the law firm, and that he will be volunteering his time to Habitat for Humanity in order to secure his own home for himself and his family.

For more information, contact John. E. Horan, executive director of the Authority, at 452-2425.