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Learning from Each Other: Partnering with the Local TANF Agency to Extend Service Delivery in The Dalles, OR

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Achieving Self-Sufficiency with WtW and FSS

Tina, with help from WtW and the FSS program, was able to move from dependency to self-sufficiency. The Mid-Columbia HA, in conjunction with WorkFirst Agency in Washington State, worked with Tina to obtain employment at the Interpretive Center. She received on-the-job training, and after a few months, Tina was promoted to a higher position at the center. Tina now manages and trains other employees. She also graduated the FSS program with $7,000 in her escrow account, which she used to put a down payment on a new house.

Agency: Mid-Columbia Housing Authority
(Size of WtW Program: 50 vouchers)

Challenge

Many housing authorities face the challenge of providing case management to ensure that families are tapped into available job and supportive services and monitoring a family's success in achieving self-sufficiency goals. Like many other WtW programs, Mid-Columbia Housing Authority (HA), which operates in a rural community covering five counties and two states, faces the additional burden of implementing a WtW Voucher program without being able to hire additional staff.

Solution: Partnering with the Local TANF Agency to Leverage Resources and Extend Service Delivery

Mid-Columbia HA and other WtW programs are maximizing their resources by forming partnerships with local TANF agencies and other service providers. By pooling their skills, expertise, and networking outlets, they are expanding educational and economic opportunities for WtW Voucher recipients.

Since the Mid-Columbia HA jurisdiction covers five counties and two states, the HA has partnered with all the TANF agencies in this large area to enhance their service offerings. The Mid-Columbia HA provides housing assistance to TANF recipients while the TANF agencies provide case management, counseling, and support to voucher holders developing individual employment plans. The Mid-Columbia HA and TANF Offices also tailor their forms and documents to meet the requirements of both agencies. Shared forms include individual employment plans and selection criteria documents. This coordination helps provide a seamless tracking and delivery of services to voucher recipients. In addition, the TANF agencies and Mid-Columbia HA work closely with one-stop centers to expand employment offerings and educational courses. With these partnerships, the Mid-Columbia HA is careful not to duplicate supportive services already available in the community - instead the HA provides referrals to service providers when possible. This model ensures that all WtW voucher recipients have access to key job and supportive services from the TANF agency and other local service providers, while making effective use of limited resources.

Two factors make the TANF office and Mid-Columbia HA relationship strong: 1) both agencies have similar goals and 2) each is motivated to help participants gain and retain employment. This relationship benefits the two organizations, as well as the WtW voucher recipient.

Implementation

The Mid-Columbia HA and TANF agencies coordinate to implement the WtW program using the following model:

  • Completing the Interest Questionnaire. Upon receiving WtW voucher funding from HUD, Mid-Columbia and TANF staff circulated a WtW Voucher Notice and Interest Questionnaire to clients receiving assistance. Mid-Columbia requires that all voucher applicants fill out the Interest Questionnaire before considering them for a WtW voucher.

  • Getting WtW clients involved. Once a family completes an Interest Questionnaire for the WtW program (see above), Mid-Columbia HA sends the family's information to one of the local TANF agencies. The TANF office then assesses the family's application based on their readiness to rent and employment goals.

  • Developing individual employment plans. Mid-Columbia HA and TANF staff worked together to develop requirements for the plan. Recognizing the larger, mutual goals of getting participants into jobs, the TANF office outlines these program requirements to voucher recipients and works with recipients to develop individualized plans. The plan then becomes a part of the Contract of Participation. The contract states the responsibilities of the participating family, the PHA, and the TANF agency and is signed by all parties.

  • Conducting regular meetings. Every quarter the Mid-Columbia HA FSS case manager attends a meeting with the TANF case manager and the family, where they jointly review the individual employment plan. The PHA and TANF agency use a monitoring tool to assess the participant's employment plan and determine whether the family is meeting WtW employment objectives. If the family is not, then the TANF case manager and the FSS case manager identify which measures are necessary to help recipients meet their employment goals.

  • Providing additional supportive services. The Mid-Columbia HA and TANF agencies work with other social service agencies that provide community services, such as childcare, transportation, and education. The TANF agencies and Mid-Columbia HA use these partnerships to connect program participants to needed services, rather than using limited resources to duplicate existing programs. For instance, a Community Action Agency Program provides a six-week Renter Education course that delves into the following topics: budgeting, communicating with landlords, how to be a good tenant, tenants rights under a lease, and job search skills.

Results

Since the TANF and WtW Offices have leveraged their resources, the FSS program has successfully helped recipients move from welfare to self-sufficiency. One participant graduated with $7,000 in escrow that was then used as a down payment on a house (see "Program Success Story" text box). In addition, five WtW Voucher recipients are currently enrolled in the FSS program, and eight more are in the process of enrolling.

Contact: Ruby Mason, Executive Director at (541) 296-5462 or RLMDALLES@netcnct.net
Tamara Wherer, WtW/FSS Coordinator at (541) 296-5462 or Mcha2@netcnct.net

 
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