Santa Barbara families are being honored tomorrow for their efforts in finding independence from government assistance via a city-sponsored Family Self-Sufficiency program.

The program – which is an affiliate of the Santa Barbara County Housing Authority – produced six graduates this fall, all of whom will receive honors during a ceremony and dinner hosted at Garden Court downtown. Twenty-third District Congresswoman Lois Capps and 4-H Youth Development and Master Gardener Advisor Michael Marzolla are the keynote speakers for the event.

The five-year long program aims to move people from government-assisted housing to a place of their own, and help participants become financially self-sufficient in the process. Rob Fredericks, the Housing Authority director of administrative services, said the program also helps participants attain personal goals, including obtaining college degrees and advancing socially in society.

Fredericks said the program not only provides low-income families with the resources to advance, but also affects other people involved in the program.

“It’s very satisfying knowing that the housing authority has been able to give the participants of this program the tools to achieve their goals, whether it’s opening a business or graduating from college,” Fredericks said.

To date, over 168 families have graduated from the Family Self-Sufficiency program, and 35 of those families have gone on to purchase their own homes.

Housing Authority Resident Programs Coordinator Frank Quezada said the purpose of the graduation ceremonies is to provide everyone involved in the program with a renewed sense of motivation.

“The graduations re-energize everybody’s batteries and reinforce what we do as a team here at the housing authority and as a part of the community-wide collaboration,” he said.

This year’s graduates have seen much success, Quezada said. Within the six families graduating tomorrow, one individual obtained their family therapist license, one participant bought their own home, and two others have achieved supervisor status at work.

Families who begin in low-income housing, Quezada said, go through many steps before they graduate from the Family Self-Sufficiency program. He said the first step in achieving housing and individual goals is to create an action plan. The organization meets with participants, and together, they come up with concrete goals. Then, these are broken down into more detailed interim goals. In order to help the participants achieve their goals, the Housing Authority refers families to outside, specialized agencies.

Tomorrow’s graduates have worked with various local agencies that have provided the families with academic counseling, financial literacy workshops, vocational rehabilitation, free-income tax preparation services, family counseling and job placement.

Santa Barbara Bank and Trust, Santa Barbara City College’s Continuing Education Division and the Women’s Economic Ventures are among the local agencies who take part in the Family Self-Sufficiency program.