On August 20, 1985, Mayor Bernie Sanders introduced CEDO’s “Project Self-Sufficiency.” The program for single parents with young children would ensure greater housing, child care, and employment access.

“Project Self-Sufficiency” was named for one of the defining traits of Vermont citizens.

“Vermonters are characterized by a proud sense of self-reliance mixed with a stubbornly independent and occasionally revolutionary streak. The state was founded by a breakaway militia during the Revolutionary War. It would later become the first state to abolish slavery and play a crucial role in the Underground Railroad, hiding escaped slaves in its sinuous terrain and shepherding them across its northern border to Canada. Growing up, I would hear these stories told as proof that Vermonters are engaged citizens who don’t take kindly to injustice or political doublespeak.”[1]

Bernie knew the daily financial challenges for young parents in providing for their children and wanted them to have the opportunity to achieve success on their own merits. In addition to witnessing his parents’ financial struggles as a child, Mayor Sanders was also dating his future wife, single-mom Jane O’Meara Driscoll. The young mother of three, who was also Director of the Mayor’s Youth Office, had completed college while raising her children on her own.

The initial proposal outlined an opportunity for 25 single parents with children under age 12 who have applied for HUD housing and demonstrate a desire to be fully employed. The lottery selection process would determine participants.

The Project Self-Sufficiency fact sheet stated:

“Project Self-Sufficiency (PSS) is a HUD national demonstration project whose goal is to help low-income, single-parent families attain economic self-sufficiency. Your agency, in coordination with 20 other Burlington social service agencies, is working cooperatively to assist single parents by offering support services such as job training, job placement, education, personal and career counseling, daycare, and housing assistance. The ultimate goal of the project is to aid highly motivated single parents in finding full-time meaningful employment at a living wage.[2]