Learning from Each Other: Creating a Seamless Integration of Employment Requirements, Monitoring, and Case Management in Manassas, VA
Agency: Manassas City Department of Social Services,
Note: Manassas City is an administering agency of Virgina's state-wide
voucher program run by the Virginia Housing Development Authority
(Size of WtW Program: 44 vouchers)
All WtW PHAs face the challenge of making the WtW voucher distinct
from a regular program voucher. In order to do this, some PHAs have
chosen to establish special WtW family obligations, combined with
a strong support system to encourage and ease the transition from
welfare to work. Enforcing such obligations and maintaining a support
network, however, are not easy tasks to handle, even for a well-managed
agency. WtW Programs must therefore find a way to balance employment
requirements with support services to ensure staff provides an encouraging
environment that simultaneously challenges clients to succeed. This
approach must also be implemented in an efficient and consistent
way so as to achieve WtW goals while not overburdening WtW staff.
Solution: Create a Seamless Integration of Employment Requirements, Monitoring, and Case Management
When HUD announced the availability of WtW vouchers in 1998, Manassas
City saw the program as an opportunity to provide housing stability
and promote self-sufficiency among its many welfare recipients.
With these special vouchers, the Agency could tie work requirements
directly to the vouchers and thus provide a real incentive for families
to find employment. Through careful planning, Manassas City designed
a challenging work program that supports Virginias welfare
reform goals and better prepares its families to find jobs in the
areas competitive job market.
The agency developed a four-part strategy to achieve its objectives.
1. Dedicate sufficient staff resources to manage the program
and assign clear roles and responsibilities.
Manassas Citys housing choice voucher program is housed within
the Citys Department of Social Services (DSS), the local TANF
agency. Manassas City DSS runs a small regular housing choice voucher
program of approximately 195 units supported by a staff of four
professionals. This staff of four also manages the WtW voucher program,
with each team member assigned clear roles and responsibilities,
- Housing Manager focuses on the big picture issues:
general program oversight, development of policies and procedures,
community relations, customer service, etc. An important part
of her job is partnership building, both internally with other
DSS offices and externally with local service agencies.
- Housing Program Administrator is the Section 8 guru
with responsibility for waiting list management, initial leasing,
reexaminations, and interims (for both the regular and WtW voucher
- Housing Program Agent is responsible for monitoring WtW participant
compliance with WtW work requirements. She also conducts inspections
for all voucher units and supports the FSS program.
- FSS Coordinator (part-time position) provides intensive case
management to all FSS families, including WtW families participating
in FSS. An important aspect of her job is selling the FSS program
to WtW families.
The Housing Manager attributes much of the programs success
to her extremely competent, knowledgeable team. Each team member
contributes a special skill that makes the team more valuable and
effective as a whole. For example, the Housing Manager can focus
on the important task of building community partnerships because
the Housing Program Administrator has a solid understanding of voucher
rules and agency policy and procedures. The program also benefits
from the computer and organizational skills of the Housing Program
Agent responsible for monitoring the progress families make in achieving
the employment goals of the program. To complement this technical
knowledge, the FSS Coordinators background in social work
allows her to provide families with top-quality case management
2. Establish strict work requirements.
- Before issuing a WtW voucher to the client, the Agency thoroughly
explains to the client, both orally and in writing, that the WtW
voucher is special and requires a commitment to seek employment.
Eligible applicants understand that they will receive a special
voucher that comes with additional responsibilities.
- Manassas City DSS requires that a one-person household work
a minimum of 35 hours per week. A two-person household must work
a minimum of 60 hours per week. For WtW families participating
in the FSS program, the work requirement is reduced if the family
is enrolled in a training or education program.
- Self-employed individuals, such as those providing daycare in
their homes, must be licensed and abide by local and state requirements
for running a business out of an individuals home. Self-employed
individuals also must earn an income at an hourly rate equal to
or above the minimum wage.
3. Monitor and track adherence to the work requirements.
- By the 10th of each month, working members of all WtW households
must submit copies of all pay stubs to the Housing Program Agent,
who is responsible for monitoring compliance with the programs
work requirements. If an individual is self-employed, that individual
must also return a standardized form that identifies when the
- The Housing Program Agent uses a simple MS Excel spreadsheet
to help her monitor adherence to work requirements. The spreadsheet
tracks for each client the hours worked, wages earned, and place
of employment. Certain fields in the tracking form are color-coded
to allow the Housing Program Agent to quickly identify families
that participate in FSS and families that are at risk of not meeting
the work requirements.
- If a participant fails to comply with the work requirements,
Manassas has developed and consistently follows standard procedures
for following up with the participant, including:
- Sending a written reminder of the requirement to obtain
employment within 30 days and complete and to submit a job
search log with at least 30 searches;
- For clients that submit a completed job search log, providing
a 30-day extension, if requested by the client in writing.
- Conducting a concern appointment to discuss
client issues or challenges; and
- Providing a final 30-day extension to find employment or
initiating the termination process.
- In addition to the process outlined above, Manassas City DSS
also takes the following actions to remind families of the work
requirements and services available:
- Sending a letter to new, unemployed WtW clients to explain
work requirements and introduce available services;
- Sending a second letter to explain the process of submitting
documentation of employment; and
- Sending a monthly reminder notices and special information
flyers to WtW clients.
- The Housing Program Agent maintains an employment file
for each family that documents all correspondence/communications.
4. Provide a strong support system.
- The contract of participation states that clients must inform
the Agency prior to changing jobs. This enables Manassas City
DSS to intervene and help clients through difficult work situations.
If a client loses employment, routine procedures are in place
to actively encourage clients to search for new employment.
- Manassas City DSS provides client support primarily through
its FSS program and referrals to the Career Connection Center.
- Manassas strongly encourages its WtW families to participate
in FSS, through which WtW families receive intensive case management.
WtW families not participating in FSS are tracked and monitored
by the PHA, but they do not receive the level of case management
that a WtW family enrolled in FSS receives.
- The FSS Coordinator and Housing Program Agent (who tracks employment
status) work closely on client case management, and the FSS Coordinator
quickly intervenes when a WtW/FSS family loses employment. The
FSS Coordinator plays the role of Good Cop by assisting
the client with emotional support and encouragement, while the
Housing Program Agent plays the Bad Cop by monitoring
compliance and enforcing requirements. Manassas has found this
separation of duties to be highly effective.
- In addition to the escrow incentive, Manassas creates additional
incentives for WtW families to participate in FSS. For example,
the work requirement can be reached through a combination of work
and education for FSS families.
- Manassas Citys Career Connection Center a Virginia
One-Stop is conveniently located in the same building as
the housing office. WtW families are strongly encouraged to use
the Center to write resumes and cover letters, search the Internet
and local listings for job opportunities, speak with a career
counselor, and attend career counseling classes.
- One benefit of its partnership with the Career Connection Center
has been the purchase of two Technology
Based Solutions software packages that assess client employability.
Abilities and Possibilities measures aptitudes, explores possibilities,
and rates client interest in a broad range of career fields. Employment
Inventory determines job readiness and the likelihood of job retention.
A strength of this software is that it can link to an employment
database of local job openings/listings and generate job listings
that meet a clients skill set. The FSS Coordinator uses
both software assessment tools as part of her efforts to provide
employment-related services to WtW families.
- Despite the challenging work requirements and tight job market,
39 out of 44 WtW families are currently employed and no clients
to-date have been terminated from the program due to non-compliance.
Staff attributes this success to their close monitoring of client
progress and quick interventions when clients struggle.
- Currently, 50 percent of the participants in the FSS program
are WtW families. A total of 21 out of 44 WtW families are currently
participating in FSS.
- The Manassas WtW program has received strong local support,
as evidenced by it success in forging partnerships.
Contact: Brenda Knowles, Housing
Manager, Manassas City Department of Social Services
8955 Center Street, Manassas, VA 20110
Source: Onsite interviews with