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Learning from Each Other: Providing Supportive Services with the FSS Program in Las Vegas

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Coordinating Supportive Services through the FSS Program to Obtain Self-Sufficiency

Ms. H. Mack enrolled in the City of Las Vegas Housing Authority/FSS program on April 1, 2000. Ms. Mack is the grandmother/guardian of two children and works full time as a certified Nursing Assistant. She completed her FSS goals and graduated as a homeowner in January 2002. She purchased a 3-bedroom home on the East Side of Las Vegas for $89,000 with down payment assistance from EOB Homeownership Funds and her own personal savings of $1,000. Ms. Mack used LIHEA for help with her utility payments, FIT for financial aide with her education, Nevada Check-Up for medical coverage for her grandchildren, and EOB Homeownership to purchase her home. Ms. Mack demonstrates how strategic coordination of FSS resources can lead to self-sufficiency.

Agency: Las Vegas Housing Authority (LVHA)
(Size of WtW Program: 700 vouchers)

Challenge

Only a small number of Welfare to Work (WtW) voucher holders are participating in Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) programs. Over the past two years, many WtW programs have concentrated primarily on leasing and are now trying to introduce FSS services to WtW participants. However, while many of the WtW sites run FSS, they don't have the resources or the commitment of senior public housing authority management to expand their programs to accommodate WtW families. The primary challenge is therefore for WtW programs to recognize the importance of linking FSS and WtW by making FSS services accessible to voucher holders when possible and to sell the FSS program to WtW families as a means of reaching and maintaining the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.

Solution: Design FSS Services that Help WtW Voucher Holders Move to Self-Sufficiency

The Las Vegas Housing Authority's (LVHA) FSS program is designed to help Section 8 families, including WtW voucher holders, become self-supporting so they will no longer need public assistance. In the FSS program, the head of the household enters into a five-year contract with LVHA and then develops an action plan with staff assistance. The action plan identifies the employment goal of the participant and outlines the activities and services necessary to achieve this goal. A FSS Coordinator is then assigned to the family to help it obtain the services listed in the plan and support the family over five years.

LVHA offers the following services in order to help participants reach their goals:

Savings Account
This service helps FSS program participants save money. When rent goes up due to an increase in earnings, the amount of the increase is also placed in a savings account. The FSS participant receives all the money plus interest when they have completed the program. (LVHA currently has over $190,000 in escrow.)

Youth Sports Build Program
This service assists families whose children would like to participate in a community sport activity. LVHA will pay registration fees and uniform costs for children who reside in a WtW or Section 8 unit. The children must range between the ages of 5-14 and parents must provide a copy of the child's report card or most current progress report.

Economic Opportunity Board (EOB) Homeownership Program
This service allows Section 8 participants that are currently receiving assistance from LVHA to use their Section 8 subsidy towards the purchase of a home. Participants must have at least one year of good standing in the Section 8 or WtW program, be employed full-time for one year, graduate from the FSS program, and provide cash down payment of 3 percent to the lender, and 1 percent of the purchase price of their personal resources.

Nevada Check Up
This service provides low-cost, comprehensive health care coverage to uninsured children 0-18 years of age in the State of Nevada.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEA)
LIHEA assists eligible households with home heating and cooling costs in Nevada.

Transportation - Buddy System
This service provides voucher recipients with a mode of transportation to view potential housing units.

Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow (FIT) Services
FIT is a public, non-profit corporation that helps people move from welfare and public assistance to well-paying jobs by offering the following services in partnership with LVHA:

  • Provides education and training to prepare participants for increased opportunities in the marketplace and a job that pays more than minimum wage.
  • Provides financial assistance (in the form of vouchers) while recipients receive job training to provide for living essentials such as good childcare, diapers, and transportation.
  • Helps participants make the transition to a better paying job through vocational counseling and mentoring.

Skill-Building Workshops
LVHA also offers skill-building workshops on subjects such as resume preparation, stress management, household budgeting, credit repair, and first-time homeownership.

Additional services through LVHA include job training, childcare, educational programs, and counseling.

Implementation

In order for LVHA's FSS program to run efficiently and effectively, many strides have been made to market the benefits of the FSS program to WtW voucher holders. At each WtW voucher briefing, LVHA staff members distribute a briefing packet that includes a FSS brochure and a FSS program sign-up sheet. The brochure gives basic information about the program, mentioning the services listed above. The sign-up sheet gives new WtW voucher holders an opportunity to find out more about the FSS program after they lease a unit.

LVHA also has a newsletter called "The FSS Gazette" which markets the FSS program further and provides helpful information to participants on a monthly basis. The newsletter contains information on the success of the FSS program, upcoming workshop dates, positive feature stories, and specific service information.

The Family Self-Sufficiency Program Guide/Resource Book, sponsored by Clark County Housing Authority, Housing Authority of the City of North Las Vegas, and LVHA, is another helpful resource for program participants. It contains contact information for organizations offering supportive services in the community such as childcare, job training, and educational services.

LVHA's FSS program would not be able to function without the help from four full-time staff members. LVHA has 3 FSS Coordinators and one secretary/clerk. The Coordinators have around 75-100 cases at any one time and also administer the Section 8 Homeownership program. Coordinator duties include monitoring goals and developing additional resources.

Probably the most important aspect of LVHA's FSS program is the interaction with the community. The Program Coordinating Committee (PCC) is a committee of community agencies and the Housing Authority. The agencies work together and provide services to FSS participants by securing commitments of public and private resources for the operation of the FSS program. FSS staff is also in constant communication with local businesses, banks, public figures, and the media -- networking is a key part of running LVHA's program and constant communication is used to announce positive strides to stakeholders.

Results

LVHA's FSS program has 221 slots, 39 percent of which are used by WtW voucher holders. There are currently 75 people on the FSS waiting list and therefore LVHA will be expanding the FSS program to 300 slots in the next few months. LVHA has had 7 FSS graduates in the last 2 years.

An article on LVHA's leasing success was in the March 18, 2002 issue of HDR Current Developments entitled, "Las Vegas Housing Authority Partners with Welfare Agency to Achieve Quick Voucher Lease-Up." Please contact 1-800-723-8077 for a copy of the article.

Contact: Deloris Sawyer, PO Box 1897, Las Vegas, NV 89125, delorissawyer@hotmail.com

Source: Interview with LVHA staff, LVHA newsletters, and brochures

 
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