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Learning from Each Other: Using Partnerships to Provide Case Management and Employment Services to WtW Voucher Recipients in Santa Clara County, Ca

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Agency: San Jose/Santa Clara County Housing Authority
(Size of WtW Program: 700 vouchers)


The San Jose/Santa Clara HA is located in Silicon Valley, an extremely tight rental market and competitive job market that creates difficult challenges for WtW families in search of housing and employment. At the start of the WtW program, the area experienced a vacancy rate of less than one-percent - the tightest in its history. Meanwhile, the average salary in the county was approximately $71,000. The San Jose/Santa Clara HA realized that its clients would need help in job training, job search assistance, and money management to succeed in this challenging environment.

Solution: Using Partnerships to Provide Services to WtW Voucher Recipients

The task of providing services to voucher holders was too big for the agency to tackle alone, so the San Jose/Santa Clara HA developed and maintained partnerships with other agencies. While benefiting from partnerships with many services providers, a key WtW partner is CalWorks, the state of California's TANF agency.

The San Jose/Santa Clara HA stated in its WtW plan that one of its three purposes was "to link families to already existing employment services such as the CalWorks Connections, the One Stop Centers, the Neighborhood Self-Sufficiency sites, the community-based job training programs, and the community colleges." By stating these priorities in writing, the San Jose/Santa Clara HA committed itself to fostering relationships with other agencies, and it continues to take deliberative steps to build and maintain partnerships.


Partnerships in Practice
The San Jose/Santa Clara HA has used partnerships to provide many services to WtW clients, including the following:

Case Management
In this partnership model, the San Jose/Santa Clara HA assumed the role of case manager but received funds from the TANF agency to hire the staff needed to assume this responsibility and adequately service its WtW families. Through its partnership with CalWorks, the San Jose/Santa Clara HA secured $1.3 million in TANF funds to hire nine staff to support the program, including two landlord ombudsmen and seven (combination part-time and full-time) case managers.

Mandatory Course Curriculum
San Jose/Santa Clara worked with its partners to develop a mandatory, 20-hour course curriculum for WtW families consisting of the following:

  • WtW orientation, conducted by both PHA and CalWorks staff, to introduce families to the program, explain program benefits, and clarify family obligations.
  • A housing search component to help families successfully locate housing in a tight rental market. Clients produce a housing resume and engage in role-playing to learn how to approach owners.
  • Money management workshop (12 hours), conducted by the University of California Cooperative Extension, to help families address credit issues and learn how to budget.
  • Landlord - Tenant workshop (3-4 hours) sponsored by three partners, including the Santa Clara County Bar Association and a fair housing organization.

Development of Individual Action Plans
The Agency's WtW contract requires WtW participants to work with the PHA's case manager to develop a self-sufficiency Action Plan. The first step in creating this Action Plan is for the case manager to conduct an assessment of the family and to work with the family to develop components of the Plan. The case manager then presents the Action Plan to a multi-disciplinary body consisting of members of the WtW Collaborative (i.e., homeless, employment, childcare, healthcare service providers). Although time-consuming, this approach ensures that WtW families receive the services they need. At the meeting, gaps in services, barriers to self-sufficiency, and family needs are identified, discussed thoroughly, and addressed.

The final Action Plan incorporates linkages from partner agencies, such as CalWorks, community colleges and Universities, Department of Family and Children's Services, Drug Court, One Stops, or Neighborhood Self-Sufficiency sites. This allows the family to work under one action plan rather than several competing plans. This not only demonstrates the commitment of the PHA to work with partner agencies, but it also reflects its desire not to needlessly overburden clients.

Six months after developing the individual action plan, a PHA case manager "checks in" with the WtW family to discuss progress in achieving the goals outlined in the plan. Families in need are then re-linked back to services.

Tips for Building Successful Partnerships

Based on the experience of San Jose/Santa Clara HA staff, the following strategies can help build successful partnerships:

  • Set tangible, realistic goals based on local and client circumstances.
  • Take time to establish trust and identify common goals, especially with new partners.
  • Define and focus on your area of expertise, and be careful not to duplicate efforts.
  • Give all potential partners the opportunity to help, and work around those who will not collaborate.
  • Sell "housing" as a critical, invaluable resource: clients cannot become self-sufficient without stable housing.
  • Focus on the client; not the agency.
  • Measure your successes. The best way to show partners, donors, and community stakeholders that you are successful is to show them quantifiable results. San Jose/Santa Clara's Community Services Manager states, "If you collect data, then you can collect help."
  • Always give partners credit, and celebrate your successes. Says San Jose/Santa Clara's Community Services Manager, "When you're successful, your successes speak for themselves, and there's always more than enough credit to go around."


The San Jose/Santa Clara HA was able to successfully lease up 100 percent of its units by the end of the first year of WtW program implementation. Its focus in the second year of implementation has been to enroll families in the mandatory course curriculum and develop Action Plans. San Jose/Santa Clara has succeeded in directly involving a broad range of services providers through its WtW Collaborative and the use of a multi-disciplinary committee to review individual action plans. It continues to receive significant financial support from CalWorks and has played a leadership role in suggesting changes to policies related to TANF work requirements.

In part as a result of its partnership-building success, the San Jose/Santa Clara Housing Authority recently obtained $6.3 million for a shallow subsidy pilot program.

Contact:Sandi Douglas, Community Services Manager, (408) 993-4251

Sources: Interviews with Sandi Douglas, Community Services Manager, San Jose/Santa Clara HA
Presentation by Sandi Douglas and Denicia Gressel, Lead Case Manager, at January 24, 2002 WtW National Teleconference.

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