At the Housing Choice Voucher Working Group meeting in
May, representatives from two Service Connector
agencies, Heartland Human Care Services
(HHCS) and Centers for New Horizons, discussed the challenges and successes of
serving families who have relocated while their homes are being redeveloped as
part of the CHA Plan for Transformation.
Mary Howard and LaRhonda Magras of HHCS and Andre Kellum of Centers for
New Horizons stressed the importance of workforce development and job placement
programs to help residents transition to employment and self-sufficiency.
While both agencies have made progress
in the communities they serve, engaging residents not familiar with the Service
Connector’s mission and those who have multiple barriers to employment are
In 2006, HHCS became the Service
Connector provider for residents in the Kenwood,
communities, where 200 households living in CHA developments or with housing
choice vouchers (HCVs) are eligible for the program.
Data for March 2006 indicate that
engagement is lower for households with HCVs (44 percent) than those in public
housing developments (66 percent).
The assumption is that the longer a household has been using an HCV, the
more difficult it is to engage in the program.
In addition, many of these households
were unaware of the services and opportunities offered through the Service
As a result,
engaging families in scattered sites and those with HCVs requires alternative
participation among these families, HHCS Service Connector staff is available
after hours and on the weekends to accommodate residents who are interested in
the program but unavailable during regular business hours.
The need for workforce
development and employment placement programs is critical for relocating CHA
According to Mary
Howard, transitional job programs are important for CHA families, who face
multiple barriers and are prone to cyclical unemployment.
While 55 percent of engaged households
are employed, 44 percent of able-bodied residents served by HHCS are
To assist these
households in acquiring sustainable jobs, HHCS realizes the need for training
programs, transitional jobs, and partnerships with local businesses.
Currently, HHCS works with the bridge
program at Dawson Technical Institute to provide residents with job training
programs and creative strategies are needed to address the varying needs of
residents in these communities.
Similarly, residents served by
Centers for New Horizons (CNH) in the Bronzeville and greater Southside
communities need Service Connector programs that offer job readiness and skills
training, as well as job placement opportunities.
In Bronzeville, 36.1 percent of the
population is of working age, and 50.8 percent of these individuals are
In response to the need
in this community and the reality that CHA families cannot remain
lease-compliant without adequate income, CNH restructured its Service Connector
program in 2005 from a focus on social services to an employment placement
As described by Andre
Kellum, the new approach addresses the lack of local business engagement by
targeting employers and finding out what their labor force needs are and what
they have to offer the community.
In implementing this new strategy, CNH discovered there are three
chambers of commerce in the Bronzeville community and the major industries in
the area are retail, banking, construction, and social services.
With this information, CNH now works
with “customers” (residents) to find employment appropriate for their interests
and skills, and ensure they meet an employer’s requirements.
According to Kellum, one of the major
challenges CNH faces is “selling the program” to CHA residents, particularly
when residents are misinformed about what the Service Connector is and what
services and opportunities it has to offer.
Click here to access recommendations
and program results from Andre Kellum’s presentation
When asked about future needs and recommendations, both HHCS and CNH suggested
that creative ideas, as well as research of innovative programs across the
country, are necessary to adapt current strategies and improve resident services
and outcomes. Moreover, additional funding is needed for programs and staff in
order to make workforce development a larger component of the Service
Finally, local business
support has a major impact on the likelihood that workforce development programs
will be successful in communities where CHA residents have relocated.
It is imperative that efforts are made
to engage local businesses and that these businesses take the initiative to
support the task of transitioning community residents to self-sufficiency.