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learning from each other: providing an effective resource room in chicago, il1

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Agency: CHAC, Inc.
(Size of WtW Program: 700 vouchers)

Challenge

To be successful, a WtW voucher program should provide useful, timely information regarding neighborhoods, housing options, employment opportunities, education and training programs, and community services. Access to such information helps families to lease up successfully and meet the employment requirements of the WtW voucher program.

Solution: Resource Room in Chicago, IL

A Section 8 Program in Chicago has tackled this challenge by developing a resource room that provides an efficient, cost-effective way for clients to gather this information in a convenient, central location. Since CHAC, Inc. administers the Chicago Housing Authority's Section 8 program and participates in the Metrolinks WtW voucher program, a joint venture of four PHAs serving the Chicago area, this Resource Room may also be used by WtW voucher holders.

With its "one-stop shopping" design, the room includes facilities to access resources, write resumes, and make calls to inquire about potential employment and make appointments to view available housing. The following is a partial list of the types of resources available:

  • Neighborhood profiles and information on how to identify quality school systems, childcare services providers, and transportation routes
  • Lists of landlords who participate in the Section 8 program
  • Notices of available units
  • Information on lead based paint
  • Job fairs and training opportunities
  • Information regarding budgeting and credit repair
  • Information on educational grants and financial aid
  • Information on starting a business or buying a home
  • Fair housing and legal services resources
  • Resources for assistance with substance abuse, domestic violence, gang prevention, and other family obligations
  • Lists of shelters, food pantries, clothing closets, and other emergency services
  • Information on CHAC's special programs

Landlords also find the Resource Room helpful. They use it for research purposes and to gain an understanding of various property management issues and Section 8 regulations. These include Housing Quality Standards, lead-based paint regulations, landlord training programs and workshops, tax incentives, weatherization programs, rehab loans, evictions, conflict resolution, tenant/landlord responsibilities, fair housing, and more.

Most materials are available in English and Spanish, and there are many health-related resources, as well as information and services for people with disabilities.

Implementation

The one-time, initial cost to establish the Resource Room was approximately $6,000 (construction materials, lighting, and furniture). The ongoing cost to operate the room is approximately $50,000/year. This figure covers the space, staff, telephone, equipment, and office supplies. Nearly all of the materials in the center are obtained from public organizations and private advocacy and service organizations free of charge.

The Resource Specialist who manages the Resource Room is an experienced housing professional familiar with the needs of Resource Room visitors, as well as the regulations of the Section 8 Program and internal procedures of the organization. The room itself is attractive, bright and appropriately furnished with two computer-equipped work stations, a table and chairs suitable for small meetings or individual work, several circular brochure stands, and shelves lining the walls to accommodate printed materials. Users have access to the Internet, a telephone, and a variety of newspapers.

Results

Nearly 3,000 individuals utilized the Resource Room between July and December 1999. The center is now serving a minimum of 500 people a month. On average, the Resource Specialist personally assists approximately 36 percent of the visitors. User feedback has been very positive.

Contact: Jennifer O'Neil, Deputy Director, Intake & Special Programs CHAC, Inc.
1000 South Wabash Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 986-9400 x4274

1 This program was not designed specifically for the WtW program. However, the program description has been adapted to show how it could still apply.
 
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