3 Discussion Summary
FSS & Case Management of WtW Families
(Teleconference Roundtable held September 5, 2002)
Note: this teleconference was split into two teleconferences
- one for small PHAs and one for larger PHAs. Given the similarity
of issues and solutions between these groups, this summary combines
information from both teleconferences.
Atlanta Housing Authority (GA)
Housing Authority (TN)
of Niagara Falls Housing Authority (NY)
County FSS Program (OH)
Housing Authority (TX)
City County (VA)
Lakeland Housing Authority (CA)
City Housing Authority (CA)
County Housing Authority (NJ)
Hampshire HFA (NH)
Amboy Housing Authority (NJ)
Housing Authority (CA)
Challenges and Tips for Success
Challenge #1: How do you provide case management with limited
staff and funding?
Agencies find it difficult to case manage all WtW & FSS clients
with limited funding and resources. They are looking for tips on
how to stretch resources, find new resources, or simply manage resources
more efficiently. Many noted that their FSS programs are already
at-capacity, and that TANF case managers have too heavy of a caseload
to provide any real support to WtW families. Moreover, only families
currently on TANF receive TANF case management, which means that
a lot of WtW families do not receive any support.
Tips for Success:
- Contract with outside organizations. After issuing a
RFP, one PHA hired non-profit case managers to provide case management.
These partners are paid annually per client, based on a fee set
by the PHA for each family. This PHA has currently imposed a cap
of $3,000 per client. Another PHA contracts with Easter Seals.
This PHA pays a flat monthly fee ($3,600) to their contractors
for the case management of 55 clients. Yet another PHA contracts
out administration of their FSS program to their local TANF agency,
creating a more seamless approach for their clients. It also allows
each agency to focus on their "service of specialty"-housing
for the PHA and case management for the TANF agency.
- Leverage services available through FSS. Agencies also
encourage WtW families to participate in FSS and then provide
case management through FSS. Agencies may apply for additional
funds for FSS Coordinators/Case Managers, as needed.
- Maintain TANF and other partnerships. Although some TANF
agencies are not able to provide the level of case management
and support PHAs need, PHAs indicate that it is still important
to develop a good rapport with TANF and other partners, particularly
to help with referrals. PHAs on the call indicated that it helps
to have a streamlined referral process as opposed to just pulling
families from a big pool (e.g., the PHA waiting list) and then
trying to verify eligibility.
- Be creative in seeking new partners. One PHA suggested
partnering with community-based organizations, such as Goodwill
and Catholic Charities, for case management and other support.
- Explore other sources of funding. One PHA indicated that
it received a grant from the Department of Labor to hire a job
developer. TANF is also currently under reauthorization and some
lawmakers are trying to make the program more flexible so that
funding can more easily be used for housing assistance. In addition
to other Federal agencies, local foundation or private businesses
may be willing to provide support to WtW programs.
- Assign case managers by geographic region. Some large
agencies assign case management services to families based on
where the families are living and working to more efficiently
utilize their resources.
Challenge #2: How do you know what services your WtW families
In order to help WtW families succeed in obtaining self-sufficiency,
agencies first need to identify the areas in which families need
assistance. Each family has different needs and identifying those
needs can be challenging.
Tips for Success:
- Provide needs assessments as part of case management services.
Needs assessments usually are the initial step in the case management
process. At least one agency provides needs assessments that clients
can complete online. This agency has partnered with another agency
to provide a computer-lease program. These online assessments
as well as self-sufficiency and skills classes give WtW families
more opportunities for success.
- Encourage partner agencies to help with families' needs assessments.
Some local TANF agencies provide needs assessments and agree to
provide housing agencies with information on mutual clients. Other
partner agencies may be able to assess clients' needs as well
and share this information with PHA staff.
Challenge #3: How do you motivate clients to participate in
PHAs sometimes struggle to involve clients in FSS. One PHA staff
member mentioned that she had been pushing the FSS program since
first contact with her families, but was having difficulty getting
clients to enroll in the program. She emphasized to families that
it was not a lifetime choice, and she also explained to families
that they would not be at risk of losing their voucher for failing
to fulfill the objectives in the FSS Plan.
Tips for Success:
- Develop written marketing materials that families can read
at home. Families may feel uncomfortable signing up for something
on-the-spot. Providing take-home information (brochures, etc.)
allows families to digest the information and PHAs to follow up
and answer any questions.
- Use marketing materials to explain the benefits of the program,
including the accumulation of assets through an escrow account
and access to benefits and services via the FSS case manager.
Marketing materials should also explain the Individual Training
and Services Plan, and reinforce that a family cannot lose their
housing by failing to fulfill the objectives of their ITSP. Finally,
"testimonials" from past or current FSS clients may
be helpfulespecially families that have been able to save
a significant amount of money through a FSS-sponsored escrow account.
- Recruit an existing FSS client to talk to prospective clients
about the program. There is sometimes a sense of distrust
or skepticism on the part of residents towards PHA staff; families
may respond more positively if encouraged by their peers to participate
in the FSS program.
Challenge #4: How do you ensure that WtW families meet the goals
and requirements of your program?
Some WtW participants seem unwilling to fulfill contract obligations
and uphold WtW employment goals. As a result, some agencies spend
considerable time and resources trying to encourage these families
to comply with program requirements. (For more information on this
topic, view our summary for Roundtable
7: Family Obligations, Terminations, and Contracts of Participation.)
Tips for Success:
- Develop work requirements and/or family obligations for new
participants. Although requirements/obligations cannot be
enforced retroactively for families already enrolled in the WtW
program, developing a work requirement policy or Contract of Participation
can help a PHA enforce employment and other program goals going-forward.
Once the PHA's admin plan has been updated to reflect the work
requirements, all new families are subject to these requirements.
- Make contract obligations simple. Some agencies help WtW
families fulfill contract obligations by making sure obligations
aren't too rigorous, difficult, or unreasonable for families to
achieve. For example, some agencies have made their WtW requirements
the same as their FSS requirements so that families don't have
conflicting or overburdening obligations.
- Provide flexible ways for the obligations to be met. One
agency offers online classes that participants can complete as
their schedule allows.
- Emphasize the positive benefits that occur as WtW participants'
family obligations/work requirements are met.
- Establish IDA programs to provide additional incentives for
struggling families to become self-sufficient.
- Encourage existing WtW clients to consent to the new employment
policy as well. Once the policy is developed, a PHA can ask
existing families to sign a voluntary agreement or contract. The
PHA will not have any legal authority to enforce the requirements,
but it may serve as an incentive to families. NOTE: If a PHA has
space in its existing housing choice voucher program, it may be
able to transfer WtW families who are not interested in signing
a contract of participation to a regular Section 8 voucher. The
PHA could then enroll new WtW families under the obligatory work
- Monitor clients for compliance with work requirements. In
order for a work requirement to be effective, it is necessary
to monitor compliance with that work requirement. At the same
time, it is also necessary to work with families to ensure they
receive the assistance they need and to ensure that policies are
enforced consistently by PHA staff. All of this takes time and
effort, so it is important to devise a strategy before implementing
a new policy. One PHA indicated that they use a matrix to help
monitor their families. The first of each month, the WtW coordinator,
the employment developer, and other key staff sit down together
and update their matrix. This allows them to identify what they
need to do each month to help their families. Others mentioned
that re-certification provides a good opportunity to connect with
families, which could be supplemented by mail surveys, newsletters,
and phone calls in-between.
- Clarify if and how the work requirement policy applies to
other adults living in the household. (e.g., spouse or partner,
adult children) Typically the work requirement only applies to
the head of household, but a PHA may decide to craft its policy
- Ensure your policy is legally binding. Have PHA lawyers
review your work requirement policy and contract of participation
to avoid any legal entanglements.