Determining the Type and Level of Counseling and Search Assistance Needed
Developing a good strategy for providing housing search assistance
begins with determining the staff and funds available for the task.
When developing a strategy, PHAs should carefully consider the cost
of the search assistance technique, family needs, and staff resources.
PHAs should develop a strategy that responds to local needs and
takes advantage of community resources. Remember, what works well
in one community may not be the best approach in another community.
Determining the Type of Assistance
Housing counseling support can be provided in individual or group
settings. While individual counseling is typically more effective,
the required costs and staff time may make it prohibitive for WtW
housing voucher programs. Therefore, a combination of group and
individual counseling may provide the best solution. Counseling
support usually includes four types of assistance:
- Motivational Support to maintain the family's commitment to
moving and achieving program goals;
- Skill-Building to educate the family in areas such as budgeting,
housing search, HQS inspections, and negotiating with landlords.
- Information on available units, neighborhoods close to education
and employment opportunities, neighborhood amenities, transportation
routes, child care services, and community services.
- Direct Assistance or Intervention, including accompanied visits
to units, neighborhood tours, family advocacy, anti-discrimination
services, and lease negotiations.
Determining the Level of Assistance
When developing a strategy, PHAs and partners must determine and
regularly re-assess the following:
- The range of services to be provided. Services related to housing
and neighborhood choice should receive highest priority.
- Intensity of services. Determine the amount of staff time and
resources that are available for housing counseling and search
- Degree of advocacy. Determine the extent to which staff will
intervene on behalf of the family in order to achieve a successful
The appropriate range and intensity of services for individual
families are likely to be determined by family needs. Not all families
will require extensive assistance. Families who have already secured
employment and childcare and are free from credit or housekeeping
problems may be ready to take advantage of the WtW voucher with
little support from the PHA or its partners. Meanwhile, others may
not be ready to look for housing because they require motivational
support or direct assistance in solving credit or other family problems.
Any assistance should focus on building the capacity of the family
to become self-sufficient.
Budget, time, and staffing constraints will also factor into the
nature and intensity of services provided. PHAs should monitor and
balance service intensity and the number of families receiving housing
search assistance and counseling so that leasing targets are met
within the time and budget constraints of the program. This oversight
will help staff balance their time between the few families who
require intensive support and those who need less.