The Wyoming Family Home Ownership Program
Purpose Prize Fellow 2008
Helping low-income families achieve home ownership.
Joseph Terry Williams spent 40 years in state health and family services agencies, working to help low-income families. Home ownership is the most effective way to lift families out of poverty, but government aid programs were not designed to help families achieve self-sufficiency. When Williams retired in 2007, he set up a non-profit project to help low-come families buy their own homes. The Wyoming Family Home Ownership Program, in partnership with local churches and businesses, mentors low-income families about household budgets, credit, self-reliance and home ownership. Families and their sponsors also each contribute monthly to a “home ownership” account for two years – saving $15,000 for a house down payment, plus a $3,000 emergency fund. By spring 2008, nine families, with a combined 25 children, had completed a financial literacy course and saved a combined $5,890, while their sponsors had contributed $32,281. Wyoming state officials estimated that the state would have spent $51,300 a year to provide public assistance to the families without changing their economic status or leading to home ownership. Williams plans to expand the program to ten new communities in two years. “This is about the power of local people to take action and own solutions. It is also a chance to change reality for a generation of children who deserve to grow up in a safe and stable environment, and whose futures hinge upon the financial stability enabled by home ownership.”