SCC has worked collaboratively with the Somerville Housing Authority on many projects over the years.One that stands out because of its focus on tenant families is the LEAP program.
LEAP is an acronym for Learning, Employment, Asset Building Program. SCC staff members Danyal Najmi and Janine Lotti tackle the employment and asset building work respectively. They work with program participants to encourage an upward career path through job search and support. They help them build a stronger financial future through sound budgeting, saving, and financial decision-making.
The cooperation and team approach to supporting SHA families means that Najmi and Lotti work regularly with SHA staff and with Karsten Cash, Program Coordinator for One Family, the organization responsible for providing educational support for participants. Together, this small team has been able to watch residents of both the Mystic and Clarendon developments work their way toward a better quality of life for themselves and their families.
“It’s important for SHA families to know that someone is one their side, hoping for their happiness and success,” says Lotti. “I think a lot of what makes the LEAP team at SHA so great is that program participants know we care and support them without judgment and with compassion.” Both Najmi and Lotti work extensively with SHA staffers Natasha Sierra and Shannon Bennett to help participants navigate extensive paperwork and red tape to obtain benefits and services they deserve.
“We take pride in the small successes,” says Lotti. “because we know they inevitably lead to bigger and better things.” Several of the families she has worked with have successfully improved their credit scores, increased their household savings, and reduced outstanding debt. When they see that this is possible, they begin to think about how taking small, disciplined steps can result in greater happiness for the entire family.