Empowering families and individuals to achieve self-sufficiency has been one of the hallmarks of Housing Assistance’s work. It is perhaps best epitomized in our Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program which provides one-on-one support to voucher holders, helping them not only set, but reach their personal and professional goals over the course of a five-year period. 

Until this year, FSS Coordinator Jan Nelson oversaw the program which is funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and which provides financial incentives for participants to increase their earnings. As their income rises so does their rent, with the difference between the new rent and the old rent going into an escrow account that participants receive when they graduate from FSS. 

Caitlin Van Gelder

Caitlin Van Gelder, FSS Homeownership Counselor

In January, Caitlin Van Gelder joined Nelson in the FSS Program, supporting voucher holders who want to take steps to become homeowners on the Cape. As our new FSS Homeownership Counselor, she will offer support and identify practical strategies that our clients can take to achieve the American dream. 

“I think one of the things about this program is it will help people save for a down payment and give them a little bit of a leg up so they can reach their goal,” Van Gelder said. “Owning a home is a goal for almost everyone. What’s really admirable about this program is that with most nonprofits, clients continue to be clients. 

The FSS Homeownership Track is really about fulfilling our mission so our clients don’t need us anymore.

A Cape native who graduated from Harwich High School in 2007, Van Gelder received her bachelor’s degree in astrophysics from Mount Holyoke. After college, she started working for Transitions Centers, a nonprofit in South Yarmouth, which assists adults with disabilities through day programs, employment services, and individual support. 

“It’s what convinced me to stay in the nonprofit field,” said Van Gelder, who is currently studying for her master’s degree in public administration from Bridgewater State University. “It’s the same kind of rewarding feeling that I’ll be getting with this job in seeing people accomplish a goal that’s important to them.” 

Van Gelder, who lives in Yarmouth Port with her husband Matt, the owner of Dennis Cycle Center, and their 5-year-old daughter, understands how important our mission is to our region. “A lot of young families are moving off-Cape because they can’t do it here. It is bad for everyone and it is really going to limit what Cape Cod can do when you don’t have people living here year-round,” she said. “You have to have year-round residents as well for this economy to be sustainable.” 

Housing Assistance promotes Family Self-Sufficiency through Section 8 vouchers and multi-year mentoring programs; we promote energy efficiency through more than 700 energy audits per year that includes the installation of no- or low-cost energy efficient devices; and we have developed and/or manage more than 550 affordable housing units.


FSS Program: Empowering Clients to Realize Their Dreams

  • CLIENTS SERVED IN 2021: 60
  • 2021 GRADUATES: 9 (1 becoming a homeowner)