Agency: The Housing Authority of the City of Austin
of WtW Program: 700 vouchers)
The job training and supportive service delivery system in Austin,
Texas has historically been fragmented. Although the local government
agencies and private, nonprofit organizations serve many of the
same people, they have rarely collaborated in any substantive way.
The absence of collaboration has served as a barrier to creative,
effective approaches to welfare reform in Austin. For example, while
recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) must
overcome multiple barriers to employment and need access to a comprehensive
web of services, Austin's workforce development system lacked an
entity that specializes in the long-term, intensive case management
required to address the barriers TANF recipients face.
Solution: Austin Works Together Project
The Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) helped break
this pattern of non-collaboration by administering $1.7 million
in Department of Labor (DOL) Welfare-to-Work funds received by the
local workforce investment board to establish the Austin Works Together
(AWT) project. AWT is a comprehensive public-private partnership
that helps TANF recipients and other eligible individuals make the
transition from welfare dependence to self-sufficiency. Due primarily
to HACA's involvement in administering the project, public housing
residents and Section 8 tenants with multiple barriers to employment
are the primary beneficiaries. The AWT project is a key component
of HACA's strategy to assist its residents in achieving self-sufficiency.
One of the most important factors in establishing the AWT project
was building credibility among the public and private organizations
involved in welfare reform. In order to replicate this project or
to simply attract additional resources for workforce development
activities, a housing authority should take the following steps:
Step 1: Demonstrate your commitment to welfare reform.
The Austin Housing Authority began this process by taking a leadership
role in the Austin/Travis County Welfare-to-Work Coalition.
Step 2: Establish a reputation as a good partner.
Successful partnerships are possible when both partners are willing
to contribute resources to a project. The resources typically
offered by HACA include meeting facilities and client recruitment.
Successful partnerships begin with a clear understanding of the
roles of each partner.
Step 3: Establish a relationship with your local Workforce
Becoming involved in local welfare reform efforts will help this
relationship develop. If possible, enter into an agreement with
the Workforce Board to have the housing authority administer and
monitor DOL Welfare-to-Work funds.
Step 4: Secure the resources to hire a Coordinator to oversee
If given responsibility for administering a sizable project, hire
a coordinator to manage the procurement process and provide ongoing
technical assistance and monitoring of all project partners.
Step 5: Obtain access to the client database used by the TANF
Agency. Because of the strict eligibility criteria tied to
DOL Welfare-to-Work funds, most people who meet AWT's program
criteria are either currently or have previously been clients
of DHS and/or the Workforce Centers. Without close collaboration
with these agencies, the process of identifying potential clients
would have been extremely resource intensive and time consuming.
In fact, information-sharing constraints were initially a serious
obstacle to the implementation of AWT. However, paying careful
attention to confidentiality standards, HACA was able to facilitate
an agreement with the Texas Workforce Commission to grant AWT
access to The Workforce Information System of Texas (TWIST), the
extensive client database used by the Texas Department of Human
Services and the Capital of Texas Workforce Centers. By installing
a secure line in AWT offices, AWT staff could access the information
they needed to identify potential clients and to track client
participation in the AWT program.
Step 6: Identify and recruit public housing and Section 8
residents for the program.
The impact of the Welfare to Work vouchers is greatly enhanced
when voucher recipients access supportive services through a program
such as AWT. HACA's DOL Grants coordinator and the AWT outreach
coordinator attend Section 8 orientation sessions, acting as a
mobile "one-stop" intake center for the AWT project.
At each orientation, they provide an overview of the program,
distribute enrollment forms, and determine eligibility. As of
November 2000, they had enrolled approximately 70 new participants.
Step 7: Leverage the resources and expertise of others by
partnering with existing community programs.
Seek opportunities with partners whose programs complement each
other and collectively meet the broad range of residents' economic
development needs. This prevents duplication of services and allows
the housing authority and its partner agencies to specialize in
what they do best. The AWT project effectively filled the unmet
need of intensive case management and job placement services for
the hardest-to-serve residents.
Step 8: Establish a central point of service delivery.
Establishing a central point of service delivery helps streamline
the process and creates a seamless system of service delivery
for clients. The Central East Austin Community Organization (CEACO)
serves as the central point of service delivery for AWT since
it is also the subcontractor of the DOL Welfare-to-Work grant,
the lead agency in the AWT project, and the provider of intensive
case management and supportive services for AWT.
CEACO has gathered a diverse group of partners with the resources
and expertise to address the wide range of needs presented by
welfare recipients. CEACO case managers work individually with
each client, assessing their interests, strengths, and needs and
then tailoring services accordingly. Case managers refer clients
to AWT partners for education, training, and job placement services.
Because of creative partnerships with the Workforce Centers and
the Austin Housing Authority, the AWT project has overcome the challenge
of identifying and recruiting program participants. After nine months
of operation, the project has produced impressive results -291 project
participants are enrolled, and 153 are employed in unsubsidized
jobs. As a result, AWT has exceeded its enrollment goal by 23 percent.
AWT has also met its performance target that at least 38 percent
of participants either enter employment of 30 or more hours per
week or increase their hours to 30 or more hours for the first time.
To date, 113 participants have achieved this goal. Since this is
not a short-term project but is expected to continue for up to three
years, AWT anticipates assisting hundreds of additional families.
Contact: Greg Harrick, Grants Coordinator,