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Learning from Each Other: Promoting Self-sufficiency in the Texoma Region (Texas): Housing, Utilities, and Vehicle Repair Assistance

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Using Housing Assistance to Achieve Self-Sufficiency

In September 2000, Daphne C., a single mother of two and WtW voucher recipient, received assistance with her security deposit through the Local Innovative Project (LIP). This assistance allowed Daphne to live on her own with her two children rather than sharing an apartment with other family members.

With this assistance she was also able to move to an area that has more employment opportunities. She has since obtained work with Sherman Rehabilitation Services and no longer receives TANF assistance. Daphne also received a Pell Grant and a personal loan that will enable her to attend classes at the International Business School while continuing to work for Sherman Rehabilitation. She is thrilled about becoming self-sufficient with the help of LIP's housing assistance and has since enrolled in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program.

Agency: Texoma Council of Governments (TCOG), a political subdivision of the State of Texas including Cooke, Fannin, and Grayson Counties (Texoma Region)
(Size of WtW Program: 150 vouchers)

Challenge

Through its direct service programs, TCOG provides a range of assistance to low income persons, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients. These programs include the Community Services Block Grant Self-Sufficiency Program, the Section 8 Rental Assistance Family Self-Sufficiency Program, and the Welfare to Work Voucher Program. Trained case managers provide intensive case management and counseling as a component of the programs' services.

Years of experience in providing these programs have allowed TCOG staff to identify certain gaps that exist in client services. Key service gaps include: (1) assistance with emergency housing; (2) utility deposits including telephones; and (3) assistance with vehicle repairs. TCOG Case Managers found that the social service organizations operating in the Texoma Region provided very limited, if any, assistance with these three items. Given the importance of these services in promoting self-sufficiency for TANF recipients, TCOG decided that it was a priority to address these identified gaps.

Solution: Funding from the Texas Department of Human Services Local Innovation Project (LIP) to Provide Direct Services

To address gaps in client services, TCOG applied for funding from the Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS) under the Local Innovation Project (LIP). The 14-month grant is being used to provide the following services:

  • Emergency Housing Assistance. TCOG will assist eligible households in keeping their current housing or securing housing if they are displaced.

    - Keeping families in their current homes. TCOG will pay either a mortgage payment or rent payment for the family (including up to two months past due rent or mortgage payment). TCOG's payment must ensure that the family will remain in that home.

    - Securing a home. TCOG will arrange to pay a security deposit for the housing unit and/or the first month's rent for the unit. Down payment and closing cost assistance for the purchase of a home will not be provided.

  • Utility Deposit Assistance. TCOG is assisting eligible households with water, electric, and/or gas deposits to ensure livable conditions that meet the families' basic human needs. TCOG will work with local utility companies to ensure that services are connected on behalf of the client and referrals to TCOG administered utility assistance programs will be made when necessary (for utility assistance other than deposits). Telephone deposits will be provided only when it is required for the client to conduct job search activities or when it is a requirement of their job that they have a telephone.

  • Vehicle Repair Assistance. When an eligible applicant family currently owns (or has been in the process of buying) a vehicle that is necessary for the family either to secure or maintain a job, then TCOG will pay to have the vehicle repaired if it has become inoperable or unsafe to drive. This payment will be made only after an assessment by a participating service center and approval of repairs by the TCOG case manager.

Implementation

To implement this program, TCOG first developed an application form to be completed by each interested household. This application includes information necessary to determine program eligibility, including household income. To be eligible, a participant must be either a TANF recipient or potentially eligible to receive TANF.

Once TCOG staff has documented all information and the client is determined eligible for participation in the program, TCOG staff follows these steps:

Step One: Assign the client to one of two TCOG Case Managers.

  • If the household has secure, adequate housing, they will be assigned to the TCOG Family Self-Sufficiency Program Manager.
  • If they lack adequate housing, the household will be assigned to TCOG's Community Services Program Manager.

Step Two: Conduct an initial assessment meeting with the client. At this point, an in-depth case management and counseling process will be initiated. The initial meeting will be used:

  • As a screening tool to determine the family's eligibility for specific program activities.
  • To build rapport with the client that will facilitate positive future program outcomes.

In an effort to address client needs in a comprehensive manner, TCOG may also arrange for assistance from other sources at the time of the initial meeting.

Step Three: Arrange housing, utilities, and/or vehicle repair assistance that is determined to be necessary for the applicant to move toward self-sufficiency (this is the responsibility of the assigned case manager). TCOG will allow an eligible program participant to use funding from all three program components if that is what is necessary for them to become financially self-sufficient. The maximum amount of assistance a household can receive is $5,500 during any twelve-month contract period.

Step Four: Monitor the household for progress toward meeting their goal of self-sufficiency. While some households may become self-sufficient shortly after receiving this assistance, this will only be the first step for other households and additional forms of assistance will need to follow. To conduct an effective monitoring process, case managers:

  • Call clients on a monthly basis to obtain updates on employment status, pay level, and number of hours worked per week.
  • Maintain an individual client file to monitor expenditures made by each client for individual components.

Step Five: Establish monthly reporting procedures to track all program expenditures, to avoid cost overruns in any program budget category, and to ensure that the program is meeting its goals and objectives. Include the following information in the monthly reports:

  • number of households served by each program component;
  • number of households entering financial self-sufficiency; and
  • number of clients being tracked for 90 day retention.

Results

TCOG proposed to serve a minimum of 39 TANF or TANF-eligible households under this program, but intends to serve 90 households. Of the 90 households served, TCOG expects the services provided to result in lifting 40 of these households out of the poverty.

Contact: Kevin Farley, Community Development Director, (903) 813-3520

 
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