New Service Connector program serves 11,000 public housing households - Metropolitan Planning Council

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New Service Connector program serves 11,000 public housing households

Ten agencies with offices in every community area and CHA family development in Chicago are charged with providing an array of social services to residents affected by the CHA Plan for Transformation.

Ten community-based organizations were selected in 2003 by the Chicago Department of Human Services (CDHS) to provide services to 11,000 "non-moving" households affected by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Plan for Transformation during an initial period of 15 months. Non-moving households include:

  1. Residents with stable residency in buildings not scheduled for demolition or rehabilitation until 2005 or after (around 7,400)
  2. Residents living in scattered-sites (around 2,200), or
  3. Residents with either temporary or permanent housing choice vouchers (HCVs) issued since Oct. 1, 1999 (around 1,400).

The new Service Connector program, which is already up and running, is an enhanced version of a pilot program developed between June 2001 and September 2003, and incorporates many of the recommendations suggested by MPC in its 2003 report Temporary Relocation, Permanent Choice: Serving Families With Rent Vouchers During the Chicago Housing Authority Plan for Transformation. Designed to serve the above-mentioned 11,000 “non-moving households,” the new system offers single-point contact counselors to residents. It was designed to be proactive rather than reactive to families’ needs. It will reduce the caseload rates to one counselor per 55 families, expanding the number of contracting agencies from four to 10, and the budget from $7.1 million to $17 million over 15 months.

The program aims to assist residents in a broad range of areas, offering housing counseling, asessment, service planning, and case management. Service Connector counselors will help residents address issues such as:

  • lease compliance
  • payment of rent and household expenses
  • home maintenance and housekeeping
  • credit, budgeting, and financial standing
  • employment
  • education
  • child care
  • family planning
  • domestic violence
  • substance abuse
  • mental and physical health, and
  • issues with law enforcement, including criminal activity.

Partnerships among the agencies providing services and other specialized community-based organizations are a key component of the plan. According to Molly McGrath, assistant commissioner at CDHS, special emphasis has been put on complementing formal service delivery with informal circles of support. The program is designed to address the health and viability of the whole community, rather than just that of the developments themselves. "This holistic approach to social services delivery will require a big change in the culture of social workers and staff in order to meet the program's goals," McGrath says.

These goals will be carefully measured against indicators. The five main results that the program aims to accomplish are:

  1. family engagement in services
  2. family stability
  3. increased housing options for families
  4. increased household incomes, and
  5. family involvement in the community.

For a chart of the goals and indicators that the CDHS is using to gauge success in each of these target areas, click here.

Virtually every community area and CHA family development has at least one Service Connector office open to residents who qualify for the services offered by the program. For a list of the different neighborhood offices for each community area, click here. A list of the offices located in CHA developments can be found here. (Both lists are in Microsoft Excel format)

A chart summarizing the number and type of households served by each agency can be found here. For a map showing the geographical scope of agencies, click here.

CHA households affected by the Plan for Transformation not served by this program include families in the midst of relocation ("moving households"), and seniors, both of whom have access to separate resources. More than 6,500 residents live in CHA senior developments. Resident service coordinators and the Chicago Department of Aging currently provide supportive services to senior residents throughout the moving process. H.O.M.E., a nonprofit service organization, also provides support to them.  Moving households (around 1,700 families) include residents living in buildings scheduled for imminent demolition or rehabilitation (and therefore in need of relocation); residents selected to move into new or renovated developments; and residents who will need a supportive housing environment to attain stability in their new homes. These families are assisted directly by the CHA and its relocation and service contractors. The CHA is also contracting with developers to assist families preparing to move into their permanent units. Developers and their providers will offer case management to these families to help them meet site-specific criteria.

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