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  1. Community Garden committee preparing for new season

    BANGOR, Maine (April 4, 2024) — BangorHousing is preparing for another season of gardening at the community garden!

    For the fourth year in a row, BHA will team up with Food AND Medicine in Brewer to grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers in the 12 raised beds on Davis Road.

    “The community garden provides opportunities to get to know your neighbors and build relationships that you might not otherwise,” said Sierra Taylor, a Family Self Sufficiency Coach who helps lead the garden. “We are growing some things that people aren’t buying at the grocery store, so it’s also a chance to try new and different foods.”

    One aspect of the garden that’s exciting is to observe how food is grown – from seedlings, to the planting, to the eventual harvest, and then in the fall, the work it takes to prepare the garden beds for winter. BHA works with Food AND Medicine to decide what to plant and how to prepare everything ahead of time for the best chance of successful crops.

    “With food prices increasing, it’s nice to supplement some groceries with the food from the garden. It provides folks with autonomy and shows them how they have the power to grow their own food,” said Sierra Taylor. “There’s also lessons to be learned when we face obstacles – like dry spells or insect infestations – and how we react to them. The garden can often reflect other aspects of our day to day lives.”

    Volunteers have already been hard at work preparing this year’s crop for planting. The extensive list of plants the group is hoping to grow this year includes Roma and cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, brussels sprouts, green peppers, beets, onions, carrots, summer squash, strawberries, mint, thyme, basil, sage, sunflowers & marigolds, lettuce, spinach, and kale.

    Once the seedlings have been planted (usually around the end of May), volunteers will meet twice a month to review how things are growing. In between sessions, volunteers stop by often to help water the plants and check on the progress. Volunteers are also welcome to stop by anytime to pick the crops and use them for their own cooking.

    If you’re interested in learning more about the community garden or volunteering, you should reach out to Sierra Taylor at staylor@bangorhousing.org.

  2. BangorHousing encourages residents to join the Family Self Sufficiency Program (FSS)

    BangorHousing is encouraging its residents to join the Family Self Sufficiency Program (FSS). The FSS Program is an employment and savings program for families that combines a powerful savings incentive with services and coaching to support residents to reach their goals. In other words, FSS can help families to save money and build towards a better future.

    In the FSS program you set your own goals and work with an FSS coach to achieve them.  Goals may include going back to school, obtaining a HiSet or job training, starting a business, paying down debt, or even buying a home.

    You will also receive an interest-bearing account called the FSS escrow account. This account is a powerful way to save for the goals you set in the program. In the FSS program you are rewarded when you earn money at work. When you, or a household member, increase your earned income (by a raise, new job, or extra hours) you get to save a part of your monthly rent increase. BangorHousing will automatically deposit a portion of your monthly rent increase into your FSS escrow account. This program does not change the amount of rent that you are required to pay. Instead, it puts part of your rent in an account for your future goals. You receive the money saved in the account when you complete the program.

    The FSS program has two required goals on top of whatever goals the family sets for themselves. They are 1) to be working to the best of your ability at the time of graduation, and 2) be free from cash assistance TANF at the time of graduation. However, you do not need to be working or receiving TANF assistance to enroll.

    You can participate in the FSS program for 6 years or graduate early if you complete your goals and fulfill the program requirements. You may also be able to access your escrow funds before graduating if you have an emergency or need help to attain a goal.

    It’s important to note that the FSS program is free and signing up for (or opting out of) the program does not affect your housing; you can leave the program at any time; and you do not need to move out of BangorHousing upon graduation.

    If you’d like to read more about a successful graduate of the FSS Program, we encourage you to read Athena’s Story

    You can read a little more about the program here.

    BangorHousing sent out letters to all residents in January with information about the program and an FSS contract. If you are interested in signing up, simply sign the contract that was mailed to you and return it to BangorHousing. If you have questions or would like to meet with an FSS coach to sign-up for the program, please contact Matt Clark at mclark@bangorhousing.org or 207-404-4505.

  3. Resident Success Story

    When Athena Witham moved into BangorHousing, she had recently given birth to her first child. Like most new parents, she felt the weight of responsibility to provide a safe home in a positive environment and opportunities for her child to thrive. 

    Without a college degree or workforce training, Athena soon realized that the jobs for which she was qualified simply would not pay enough to cover the cost of childcare. It was a frustrating reality that left her feeling trapped in generational poverty.

    “I knew I didn’t want to continue the cycle of generational poverty, but it was hard to accept help,” said Witham. “There’s a real stigma around public housing and taking advantage of the programs that are part of it. It creates an internalized pressure to do it all yourself.”

    After meeting with Heather Higgins, an FSS coach, Athena joined the BangorHousing Family Self Sufficiency Program with a goal of going back to school and completing her bachelor’s degree.

    The Family Self Sufficiency Program was launched in 2015 to help BangorHousing residents realize their goals. Participants are coached through the process of setting personal and financial goals. They gain access to Boys & Girls Club services, social and emotional skill development courses for the family, plus access to services from more than a dozen partner agencies, for everything from financial and career development services to childcare, early childhood education, and mental health counseling.

    “The FSS program helped me feel dignified,” said Witham. “They met me as a person and helped me navigate life on my own terms. I was able to make full decisions and have the support to be bold.”

    With the support of FSS, Athena embarked on a journey that would take her farther than she ever thought possible. She graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in social work – this had been her original goal, but after achieving it she felt she wanted to do more and continued to earn a master’s degree. With two young children at home, the decision to remain in school was challenging.

    “Even with a great support system it was really hard,” she said. “There were times I was working four jobs, going to school, and trying to be the best mom I could be for my kids. I knew getting my master’s degree would give us more economic freedom, but it was hard to say, ‘yes, I’m going to do this for two more years.’”

    Along the way, Athena worked directly with Heather and Liz Marsh to manage her goals and challenges. She took part in childcare programs and budgeting and financial literacy courses— all helping her build a better picture of what success and self-sufficiency meant to her. She recalled how the team was, “relentless in a good way,” and provided check-ins and kindness.

    “I remember feeling really low at one point,” she said. “BangorHousing was hosting a Valentine’s Dance, and I took the kids. It was such a simple thing but so meaningful to me. That dance gave me time to connect with my kids and neighbors and refilled me to keep on going.”

    With her master’s degree in hand, Athena is now working in public health for the City of Bangor and exploring teaching opportunities at the University of Maine. She is looking forward to this next chapter and enjoying her achievements.

    “I have a great sense of pride in what I’ve been able to do,” she said. “I have changed the course for my children and future generations. Now I’m looking forward to learning how to relax a little. To live in the moment and be present for myself as a woman and a mother.”

  4. PUBLIC NOTICE

    The Housing Authority of the City of Bangor (BHA) has developed its 2024 Annual Plan, including revisions to its Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy, Administrative Plan, and Public Housing Lease. BHA has also developed a Moving to Work Supplement to the Annual Plan (MTW Supplement).  The Annual Plan, revisions, and the MTW Supplement are available for review on BHA’s website (links below) and at its office located at 161 Davis Road, Bangor, during its business hours, Monday- Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Please call 207-942-6365 for an appointment.

    A public hearing on the Annual Plan, revisions, and the MTW Supplement will be held on Wednesday, October 11, 2023, at BHA’s office at 12:00 p.m.  The public is invited to attend and comment. The public is also invited to submit written comments to the revisions to the Public Housing Lease at the address listed above.

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