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Learning from Each Other: Partnering with the Local TANF Agency to Help Families Move from Welfare-to-Work in Anaheim, CA

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Agency: The Anaheim Housing Authority (AHA) and the Orange County Social Service Agency (OCSSA)
(Size of WtW Program: 700 vouchers)

Challenge

The Anaheim Housing Authority (AHA) is one of several housing agencies located in Orange County, California. In the initial WtW allocation, AHA received 700 WtW vouchers from HUD. Like other agencies, AHA then faced the challenge of leasing-up 100 percent of these vouchers while also establishing a support system to assist WtW families in finding and maintaining employment.

Solution: Partnering with Local TANF Agency

About the same time that AHA received the WtW vouchers, AHA's local TANF agency, Orange County Social Service Agency (OCCSA), received block grant funding for self-sufficiency services for county residents. AHA and OCSSA decided to reach their mutual goal of helping Anaheim residents move to self-sufficiency by joining their resources and partnering together.

At the beginning of the partnership, representatives from both agencies discussed and ultimately agreed upon a way to merge their resources to make a successful WtW program. The agencies never created a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), but the partnership remains strong. Communication between the partners is ongoing and continues to contribute to the success of the program.

Implementation

Steps to Partnership Success

It can be very challenging to take two separate agencies, with objectives and skill sets, and develop one set of procedures to achieve the same, mutual goal. Program leaders from both agencies attribute their successful partnership to the following key steps:

  1. Set a mutual goal and vision.

    • The agencies' representatives agreed to leave all other issues "at the door" and focus only on the WtW program's success. This kept the representatives from getting caught up on other issues and programs in which they might be mutually interested but have differing thoughts and opinions. This approach has saved time and helped preserve goodwill throughout the partnership.

    • AHA made its eligibility requirements for WtW the same as TANF requirements to simplify the referral process between the agencies and to demonstrate both agencies' agreement on the basic selection criteria.

  2. Engage staff and contract partners.

    • OCCSA employed additional staff to handle the added work required by the WtW vouchers. Some of these new employees were contracted from the community to provide case management and other related activities, such as direct referral and community outreach.

    • AHA provided training sessions to staff at OCCSA about the WtW and housing choice voucher programs. These sessions explained why it's so beneficial to families to receive a voucher and addressed the procedures families follow to obtain a voucher. In addition to communicating the purpose of the WtW vouchers, the training sessions have an added bonus of making the OCCSA staff informed advocates of housing issues, which enables them to speak about housing issues to community groups and partner agencies.

    • AHA also "staffed-up" to handle the increased workload. Currently AHA administers 6100 vouchers and employs a staff of 65. To handle the increased WtW caseload, the agency dedicates 10 staff to WtW responsibilities.

  3. Establish liaisons.

    • OCCSA developed a liaison to work with AHA on the WtW program. The liaison position allows the agencies to quickly and easily exchange information.

  4. Generate staff enthusiasm.

    • Developing and maintaining the partnership takes lots of work and effort from both agencies. By encouraging their staff to be "cheerleaders" of the program, the agencies have found that the WtW program benefits from the added energy and momentum of staff.

    • To keep staff enthusiastic about the program, the agencies send out monthly reminders of program goals, successes, and updates.

    • To keep staff informed and engaged, AHA and OCCSA regularly and frequently disseminate information about the program to all staff at both agencies. This also maintains WtW as a priority.

Agreeing Upon Key Procedures

AHA and OCCSA worked together to develop procedures for implementing the program, and both assisted in revising the procedures, as needed. Some of these procedures include the following:

  • The agencies agreed that OCCSA would screen applicants and determine eligibility for the program. In order to speed the transfer of information while keeping a relatively simple process, the agencies implemented a direct referral system that is paper-driven.

  • OCCSA provides a computer link to AHA so that AHA can electronically access the amount of TANF benefits a family receives during the reexamination process. This streamlines the verification process, making it more efficient.

  • OCCSA administers case management to WtW participants. OCCSA maintains four district offices, each serving a region of the county (north, east, south, and west). Two of the agencies have in-house WtW case managers, and the other two offices have contracted staff to handle WtW case management.

  • To encourage lease-up, OCCSA contracted case managers to go out into the community and provide outreach to landlords and seminars to families. These case managers also answered questions and helped complete paperwork.

  • Through its own staff and its contracted partners, OCCSA provides ongoing client supportive services and works with the client to achieve self-sufficiency. Also OCCSA provides housing search assistance, landlord outreach, and job retention services to WtW program participants.

  • AHA hosted a celebration luncheon for WtW staff at both agencies. The luncheon ensured that the successful collaboration would continue and allowed people to meet, exchange ideas, and "put names with faces."

Results

This partnership created a win-win situation by allowing both agencies to achieve their goals. In addition, welfare recipients received the benefit of coordinated, seamless services. Not only does this partnership enable eligible families to quickly receive needed housing stability, but it also provides WtW families with access to supportive services.

Specifically, this partnership has led to several measurable successes, including the following:

  • AHA has doubled the size of its WtW program from 700 to 1400. As a result of this achievement, their overall Housing Choice Voucher Program utilization rate has increased to about 98 percent.

  • AHA received "The Best of the Best" Award from the City of Anaheim for their ability to lease so many needy families in a tight rental market.

  • About 31 percent of AHA's WtW participants have "graduated" from receiving direct TANF assistance.

  • Both agencies spoke by invitation at a national conference on Housing and TANF Policy Issues, sponsored by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The agencies presented their strategies for an effective partnership, stressing the need for high levels of commitment and resources by both agencies. You can view the PowerPoint presentation staff used to illustrate this process in PDF format. (Adobe PDF, 5 pages)

Contact: Ms. Vicky Cooke, Anaheim Housing Authority, (714) 765-4320,
Ms. Pauline Notch, Orange County Social Service Agency, (714) 435-7897

Source: Onsite interviews with AHA staff; WtW Teleconference, August 22, 2002

 
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