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Technical Assistance Initiative - Welfare to Work Vouchers

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 -   Plymouth Housing Commission
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Plymouth (MI) housing commission:
focusing on start-up to meet program objectives

The Plymouth Housing Commission has 1,840 Section 8 vouchers, of which 408 are WtW. Plymouth has one intake/eligibility specialist and three case managers. One case manager was designated as the WtW Coordinator to oversee the entire leasing process from beginning to end. The WtW Coordinator also coordinates the provision of supportive services with partner agencies. Plymouth contracts out the inspections function, which has resulted in timely inspections and eliminates a common cause of leasing delays. Plymouth also brought in three part-time summer people to assist with mailings and other clerical tasks.

Leasing Strategy and Approach

Plymouth staff views the creation of the WtW program as an indication of future HUD and congressional housing objectives and priorities. It felt that to be successful in accomplishing the housing and employment goals of the program, it needed to establish community partnerships, identify program resources, and establish an infrastructure prior to beginning a mass intake and leasing effort. While this strategy meant a delay in leasing, Plymouth plans to make up for this delay through the efficiencies gained during its startup period. Plymouth took the following approach to leasing:

  • Waiting list examination
    After reviewing Plymouth's waiting list, staff realized that there was an insufficient number of potentially eligible families from which to select.

  • Opening the waiting list
    Plymouth opened its waiting list for one day and accepted over 4,300 applications. Questions were added to the waiting list application that specifically related to WtW and the family's potential eligibility. From these questions, staff members were then able to flag and recognize potential families for the program.

  • Software modification
    Staff contacted its software provider to modify the waiting list screen so that a computerized list of potential WtW families could be generated to expedite the selection process.

  • Staff meetings with Program Partners
    WtW staff then met with the FSS Coordinating Board, the Housing Commission Board, its Executive Director, and various partner agencies to establish goals and obtain commitments for program involvement. Plymouth's experience with the mainstream voucher program motivated them to establish cooperative agreements with social service providers that would play a critical role in assisting families during and after the housing search. Instead of trying to "reinvent the wheel," Plymouth contacted agencies with which they had worked well in the past and began the process of obtaining support and developing memoranda of understanding.

  • Intake
    Plymouth invited the first 500 families to be screened for the program.

  • Briefing
    Plymouth uses a mass briefing approach. Staff developed a special briefing format for WtW. They invited the first 15 families to the briefing and used them as a test group. After the briefing presentation, Plymouth asked the families to give them feedback about the usefulness and quality of the briefing. Plymouth used this information to make improvements to its briefing presentation.

Supportive Services Plan

Plymouth has dedicated much time and effort to ensure that a supportive service plan is in place so that families are provided with necessary services upon leasing up. Families are scheduled to meet with a case manager within 90 days of leasing up. It has received notable resource commitments from partners, including:

  • Security deposit assistance from the local TANF agency;
  • Donation of refurbished appliances (washers and dryers) from a local vendor;
  • Provision of résumé writing assistance; and
  • "Dress for Success Program" benefits, transportation, and other services from an outlying county agency.

Plymouth also meets regularly with the other four agencies in the state of Michigan that were awarded WtW vouchers. These coordinating meetings have been a very useful exchange of information regarding best practices, roadblocks, and questions.


Kathleen Swarthout
Section 8 Director
Plymouth (MI) Housing Commission
(734) 455-3670
E-mail: plyhsg@oeonline.com

Content current as of 23 August 2001   Follow this link to go  Back to top   
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