Agnes Hastings has never stopped dreaming of becoming a hair stylist. The 55-year-old has wanted to reach that goal since she was a teenager, but life got in the way.
“It’s been a dream of mine since high school,” Hastings said during an interview in her home at Pleasant View Apartments on Thursday morning. “I put it off to raise a family.”
Hastings, who lives in public housing, hopes an infusion of nearly $800,000 in funding to the Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority will enable the agency to help her and others under the DRHA’s program become self-sufficient.
The authority announced last week it was re-awarded a total of $672,000 over three years from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Resident Opportunity Self-Sufficiency grant.
DRHA also has received an increase in funding for its Family Self-Sufficiency Program to a maximum of $111,104.
“Each of these programs have wonderful features to help lead families to self-sufficiency,” Vera Vaden, marketing manager with the authority, wrote in an email to the Danville Register & Bee.
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The money will help cover school costs — including earning a GED — child care and public transportation, said Larissa Deedrich, executive director of the authority.
“They can take college courses for CNA [certified nursing assistant] classes or license renewal,” Deedrich said.
As for the $111,104, that amount was an increase from $24,000 in initial funding in the past. The Family Self-Sufficiency Program encourages families to work on becoming self-sufficient over five years, including helping them get job training and counseling or additional education.
The DRHA provides program participants additional support services including child care, transportation, financial literacy, help acquiring homeownership and other services.
The additional money will enable the authority to serve more families and possibly extend funds for services to current households.
Deedrich told the Danville Register & Bee on Wednesday that money from the Family Self-Sufficiency program will put participants’ rent money into an escrow account. After five years, the beneficiary will be able to take that money and use it for whatever they want, such as buying a new car, or a home, she said.
Deedrich said the $672,000 will also help the elderly and the disabled.
“It’s for any resident who needs help with self-sufficiency activities or elderly or disabled to keep them in the home,” Deedrich said.
The authority owns and manages a total of 563 units in seven multi-family developments. Its public housing accommodates about 1,600 residents, according to the DRHA website.
DRHA also administers about 1,600 Housing Choice Voucher units (Section 8) in Danville, Martinsville and Pittsylvania and Henry counties. The authority has about 41 employees, according to its website.
Section 8 housing involves private landlords offering homes with the authority paying rent to the landlord.
Eligible participants in DRHA’s housing programs must meet certain income requirements. The income limit for a family of four to qualify for assistance is $38,150 per year, according to figures provided by Deedrich.
The authority gets all of its funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
As for Hastings, she plans to find out if the DRHA can help pay for her cosmetology classes at Danville Community College, which she currently attends.
Currently, a college program is providing funds to pay toward her classes, Hastings said. She can’t get financial aid because she has student loans in default from past college attendance.
Hastings, who currently is not working, has a 2003 Ford Explorer that is not reliable, she said.
“I don’t trust it to get back and forth,” she said, adding that it has kept her from seeking a job. She has also suffered from back problems.
Hastings receives about $400 a month in income from child support and federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
She lives with her granddaughter and has resided at Pleasant View for about four years.
With financial assistance, she expects to finish her cosmetology studies in 2023 and hopes to find work in her chosen career.
“I want to do better for myself,” Hastings said. “I want to do better for me and my granddaughter.”