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Globe/Roger Nomer Debbie Markman cuts the cake for Dacoda, 7, Morgain, 10, and Conner, 4, during a celebration to mark the purchase of Lisa Bittner’s new home.

By Mike Dwyer

mdwyer@joplinglobe.com

WEBB CITY, Mo. - Six years ago, Lisa Bittner was a single mother of three without a job, living on food stamps. Friday, she closed on her first home.

"It's still hard to believe it has actually happened," Bittner said. "The house is just gorgeous.

"It's a two-story home with plenty of bathrooms and an above-ground pool. I wanted a pool," Bittner added.

She made the leap to home ownership with the help of two programs offered through the Economic Security Corp.

Bittner first enrolled in ESC's Family Self-Sufficiency program, which helps clients set employment and education goals, said Debbie Markman, director of housing and development for the Jasper County Public Housing Authority.

People who enter the program pay only a small amount toward rent on a monthly basis, Markman said, but as their income increases, so does the rent. For example, a person who goes from making $100 to $1,000 in a month sees rent jump from $25 to $300 monthly.

The money that person saves HUD by paying more rent then rolls over into a credit escrow account. So, if a person pays $300 instead of $25 a month, $275 goes into the account monthly and becomes available to that person when they meet the goals set upon entering the program, provided it is done within the five-year program limit, Markman said. The money can be used in any way a client chooses once goals are met.

Markman said about half the program's 41 families involve single parents, making it difficult for them to meet the goals they set and find a job with a living-wage.

"It's pretty difficult," Markman said.

Bittner's case manager and FSS coordinator, John Crawford, said Bittner's goal was to be employed for three years at EaglePicher.

"This young lady, when she came to us for housing, she had no income, paying no income tax, was not producing for the community," he said. "She needed that help to get to the point where she could."

Bittner also tapped the Missourians Building Assets IDA program, which helps clients buy homes.

The IDA program, said Community Development Director Tammy Walker, helps low-income families buy homes through a two-for-one funds matching program. If a family contributes $2,000, the program maximum, IDA will match with $4,000, Walker said.

"I didn't realize how much help they are," Bittner said. "I didn't see buying a home in my future."

Online

For more on the Economic Security Corp., go to www.escswa.org.