September 16, 2014  

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Celebration Honors Mississippians with Disabilities Who Have Become Homeowners

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BankPlus received the 2012 Housing Initiative Partner of the Year Award presented by The University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies (IDS). The award is presented annually to an individual or agency participating on the IDS Housing Advisory Council who has worked in the housing, disability or economic development arenas in the state to empower people with disabilities to live independently in their communities. Receiving the award for BankPlus, are from left, Debra McGee,Senior Vice President and Director of Minority Business Development; Kimberly Keen, Affordable Housing Lending Assistant; Mark Ouellette, First Vice President and Director of Affordable Housing; Jack Webb, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Retail Banking Officer; Marcia Reed, CreditPlus Sales Manager; Edith Kennedy, Community Development Officer; and David Johnson, Sr., Senior Vice President and Director of Community Development. (Submitted photo)

Many Mississippians with disabilities once thought owning their own home was just a dream. In the past 15 years, 500 individuals with disabilities and their families have realized their dream of becoming homeowners through The University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies’ Home of Your Own (HOYO) program.

“In 1997, the Home of Your Own program began as the dream of advocates who knew that individuals with disabilities could be successful homeowners,” says Royal Walker, Jr., executive director of the Institute. “That year four families were assisted. Now, as we complete our 15th year of service, the HOYO program has assisted 500 Mississippians. That’s the realization of 500 dreams of becoming a homeowner.”

To mark the milestone of assisting 500 clients in 15 years, the Institute for Disability Studies (IDS) held the HOYO 500 celebration on Dec. 11, inviting all 500 homeowners, state officials, participating lenders and others who have provided services and supports to HOYO clients. Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson welcomed visitors to the city and praised the program for its assistance to individuals with disabilities and their families. More than 200 individuals attended the event.

At the celebration, BankPlus was presented with the IDS 2012 Housing Partner of the Year Award. The HOYO Top Loan Volume Producer Award for the 15 years of the program was presented to USDA Rural Development. The Top Grant Funder Award was presented to the Mississippi Development Authority.

Homeowner Micah Miller had been saving for his own home for a long time. He attended the required day-long homebuyer education class and was undaunted by all the paperwork required to purchase a home. “I want to thank everyone from the Home of Your Own program. I want to thank everyone for helping have this house. It makes me feel proud to be a homeowner,” said Miller.

“I had a good experience with HOYO,” said Mr. L.C. Truss, a wheelchair tennis champion. “I met some nice people. They helped me along, coached me, gave me the right direction as to how to get my home, and they were patient with me.”

A state and national award winning program, HOYO focuses on creating a support system that identifies potential homebuyers, analyzes their housing needs and financial capacity and prepares them for homeownership. Applicants of the HOYO program must be income eligible, obtain lender approval to purchase a home and attend a homebuyer education seminar to be considered for financial assistance in purchasing a home. There are now HOYO homeowners in 63 of Mississippi’s 82 counties.

The success of the Home of Your Own program has led to other IDS housing initiatives for families such as the HOME Partnership Program for the City of Jackson and Neighborhood Stabilization homeownership programs in Jackson, the Shelter For All program which assists homeless individuals with disabilities in finding permanent housing and HousingSmart, a fair housing initiative focused on the needs of people with disabilities and the elderly.

For more information about the Institute and its housing initiatives, visit www.usm.edu/disability-studiesor call 1-866-883-4474.