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Learning from Each Other: Partnering with the Local TANF Agency for Seamless Case Management in Salem, Or

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Agency: Salem Housing Authority and the Local TANF-Administering Agency
(Size of WtW Program: 225 vouchers)

Challenge

In order to achieve self-sufficiency, WtW voucher clients often need supportive services customized to meet their individual needs. Assessing individual needs and providing the appropriate level of case management and supportive services is a challenging undertaking, especially for PHAs with limited resources and expertise in the field of case management and supportive service provision. One of the biggest challenges in administrating a successful WtW program is in the design of a case management system that effectively pinpoints the type of services needed by each client, ensures that the client receives the needed support, and tracks client progress in achieving self-sufficiency goals.

Solution: Partnering to Share Resources and Manage Cases

The Salem Housing Authority meets this challenge by partnering with its local TANF agency, which is responsible for case managing WtW voucher program families. This partnership allows each agency to focus on providing the services that they know best - housing services by the housing agency and supportive services by the TANF agency. This virtually seamless partnership has been built over time and is the result of the significant dedication of both partners. In fact, the WtW voucher program is actually a subset of a larger Family Stabilization Program that is co-sponsored by both agencies. A key to the success of this approach is the creation of two "liaisons" who divide their time between both agencies and ensure on a daily basis that the partnership is working to meet housing agency, TANF agency, and client needs.

Implementation

Together these agencies have created an "entry-level" case management system that effectively supports and tracks each client. It should be noted that a majority of the families served by the two partners are the "hard-to-serve" and face multiple barriers to employment, including language difficulties, mental health issues, drug addiction, criminal backgrounds, and disabilities. Participation in the PHA's Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS) is usually reserved for families that have stabilized their approach to these obstacles. Key components to Salem's case management plan include the following:

  • The partnership ensures that families eligible for housing and/or TANF assistance are given access to this assistance. For example, the local TANF agency "signs off" on all families eligible for the WtW voucher program. This ensures that the voucher applicant begins receiving case management services from the TANF agency while receiving housing assistance.
  • Participation in the WtW voucher program begins with a comprehensive "needs assessment." Information collected from the needs assessment is entered into a central form that is shared between both organizations. TANF agency caseworkers then work with the client to develop a unique self-sufficiency plan based on individual need. For example, the plan of single grandparent raising her daughter's twin boys might include attending a parenting class.
  • WtW families meet with their TANF caseworker every month. As part of their case management plans, families are often referred to one or more local social service providers that make up an extensive referral system for WtW clients. These local community partners are vital to the partnership's ability to provide essential supportive services to families.
  • The case manager in the local TANF agency is responsible for following up with the applicant/WtW participant regarding the progress made in achieving the goals outlined in the self-sufficiency plan (e.g., are they receiving the services recommended?). The TANF caseworker informs the PHA of progress being made by the client.
  • WtW participants must comply with Salem's WtW family obligations plus remain in good standing with the local TANF program. In an instance of non-compliance, both TANF agency and PHA staff make every effort to prevent failure in the program. If a client continues to be non-compliant, the PHA begins the termination process.
  • The key to maintaining excellent communication between both agencies is the staffing of two liaisons who work between the agencies. Each week the liaisons spend four days working at the local TANF agency and one day working at the PHA. In addition to acting as an "interpreter" for both agencies, the liaison advocates the partnership and ensures that clients are given consistent messages throughout the case management and monitoring process. One of the two liaisons works specifically on the WtW voucher program, overseeing the tracking systems and helping to monitor clients from the beginning of the program until every goal is met. Though these liaison positions are funded by the local TANF agency, the liaisons are actually on the housing agency's payroll.

Results

The partnership between the Salem Housing Authority and the local TANF agency has created an efficient process for both staff and clients from each organization. This process taps into what each agency can best deliver, creating a strong support network with consistent guidance for WtW clients. In this system, everyone is aware of each agency's roles and expectations for positive results and long-term success.

Contact: Barbara Kauss, Salem Housing Authority, 360 Church Street SE, PO Box 808,
Salem, OR, 97308-0808, (503) 588-6368, BKAUSS@mail.open.org

Source: Presentation during the WtW teleconference call, "Models of Case Management" (August 8, 2002)

 
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