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Learning from Each Other: Providing Employment and Supportive Services to WtW Participants in Kenosha, Wi

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Agency: City of Kenosha Housing Authority (CKHA)
(Size of WtW Program: 200 vouchers)

Challenge

Research indicates that many of the families still receiving TANF face multiple barriers to employment, including low education and skill levels, a poor work history, and childcare and transportation difficulties. To be successful, housing authorities need to provide program participants with a broad array of supportive services, including case management, life skills training, job training, and job placement. However, few housing authorities have the staff, resources, or expertise to provide the level of employment and supportive services that these participants need. Further, given the limited timeframe for lease up, few housing authorities have the time to devote to such activities.

Solution: Financial Employment Planner (FEP) Teams in Kenosha, WI

To tackle this challenge, the City of Kenosha Housing Authority used the WtW Housing Voucher Program as an opportunity to integrate itself into the cooperative staffing structure of the Kenosha County Job Center (KCJC). The KCJC began in 1990 when Kenosha County became the first Wisconsin county to integrate its Economic Support Division (formerly AFDC services), Job Opportunity Center (formerly JTPA job services), and Basic Skills Training Program (formerly JOBS) within a community one-stop center.

Today, the Job Center is a collaborative grouping of related service providers working side-by-side. Partner agencies located in the center include Job Corp, Head Start, Gateway Technical College, Goodwill Industries, the Kenosha Department of Human Services, and Wisconsin Job Services. Services offered at the Job Center range from job search assistance, basic skills instruction, and customized training opportunities to childcare resource and referral, SSI advocacy, paternity establishment, and child support enforcement services. Economic subsidies offered at the Job Center include childcare subsidies, food stamps, medical assistance, and TANF assistance.

To help TANF recipients transition from welfare to self-sufficiency, the Job Center has developed Financial Employment Planning (FEP) Teams. Each team consists of five individuals:

  • Economic Support Specialist
    This county employee is responsible for determining eligibility for all programs-including Food Stamps, Childcare, Medical Assistance, Badgercare, and Wisconsin Works (Wisconsin's TANF Program).

  • Case Manager
    This staff member from the local nonprofit partner organization, Goodwill Industries, assists participants in developing an employability plan and helps them obtain needed services by coordinating with other FEP team members.

  • Employment Support Specialist
    This Goodwill staff member provides skills training and employment support to individuals in the Wisconsin Works and Food Stamp Employment and Training Programs.

  • Job Placement Specialist
    As a State employee, this individual works with both employers and participants to locate job openings and place clients into jobs.

  • Childcare Case Manager
    This Goodwill staff member assists both program participants and community childcare providers to ensure that participants are able to take part in program activities and reach their goal of obtaining and maintaining employment.

This interagency coordination between FEP team members has created a seamless service environment for participants, who no longer have to deal separately with each agency. As a result, participants have more time to focus on what is really important-finding a job and becoming self-sufficient. The interagency team approach is effective because of the different skill sets required to perform employment and economic self-sufficiency planning tasks.

For example, the technical expertise required to establish eligibility for Wisconsin Works, Food Stamps, and Medical Assistance is substantially different from the interpretive skills needed to process assessment results and to design and negotiate employment plans. Likewise, the skills necessary for effective case management differ from the skills necessary to work with an employer who is having difficulty transitioning a Wisconsin Works participant from a trial job to an unsubsidized position. By utilizing a team approach, the county has simplified the process for participants while serving them in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

Implementation

To integrate itself into the Kenosha County Job Center, CKHA first hired a WtW program coordinator who is housed at the Job Center. The WtW coordinator is responsible for training other Job Center staff on the Section 8 and WtW voucher programs, as well providing ongoing support and technical assistance on housing issues and benefits to voucher recipients. The WtW coordinator is also responsible for designing and implementing a comprehensive outreach program to current and future Job Center participants who may be eligible for Section 8, conducting outreach to area landlords, and participating in collaborative management initiatives at the Job Center.

Results

The FEP team approach to providing welfare to work programming has been the hallmark of the Job Center's service delivery system. Since its inception in 1989, this approach has resulted in the placement of over 7,500 welfare recipients into unsubsidized employment.

Because of the strong success of the Job Center in facilitating employment among program participants, Kenosha County has been identified as one of a handful of Learning Laboratories nationwide qualified to provide technical assistance to other communities developing one-stop career centers.

Contact: Cyndi Zarletti, Housing-to-Work Program Coordinator, City of Kenosha Housing Authority,
Human Services Building, Kenosha, WI 56410
(262) 697-4641; CZarlett@co.kenosha.wi.us

 
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