Worcester Housing Authority

Work / School Requirements

A Better Life - Phase 3                  Spanish Version
Expanding the Program in State Public Housing

I. Introduction

The intention of the A Better Life (ABL) program is to motivate residents to become self-sufficient as quickly as possible while freeing up valuable housing resources for other individuals and families who remain on our extensive waiting lists. 

As a part of this program, the WHA offers case management and other wide range of other assistance. Residents are encouraged to contact the ABL office for more information.

II. Phase 1 -Voluntary Program

Initially, participation in ABL was strictly voluntary. As such, there was no requirement for participants to go to school or work. Residents were encouraged to seek work or attend school and proceed along a path to self-sufficiency. This phase began in 2011. After extensive outreach to residents living in public housing, a very limited number of families were willing to participate and do the hard work recommended in the program. Residents of both state and federally subsidized housing continue to be eligible to participate in this phase of the program.

III. Phase 2 -Admissions Preference

In 2014, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed the Welfare Reform Act. This legislation gave the WHA permission to operate the ABL program on state subsidized property. This phase of the program included an “admissions preference”. This preference would place any applicant family at the top of the state public housing waiting list if they agreed to participate and meet the requirements of the ABL program. Once the applicant agreed to participate and signed a lease which included the program requirements, they were then required to go to work, attend school or provide community service along with other requirements. Failure to meet the program requirements will result in lease enforcement up to and including eviction.

This phase of the program continues and applies to applicants for state subsidized public housing.

IV.  Phase 3 -Existing Residents of State Public Housing

This phase of the program applies to existing residents not admitted as a part of the Phase 2 admissions preference phase. It includes all residents living in state subsidized family public housing.
  • The “requirement” to go to school or work is only being applied at state subsidized communities (200, 705).
  • While the requirement to go to work or attend school is mandatory as described herein,  participation in ABL services including case management, Life Skills training and other services is strictly voluntary but is available to any resident who wishes assistance.
  • As described herein and upon formal notification, an existing resident will be required to go to work or attend school following their annual recertification of their lease. The work/school requirement shall begin no sooner than September 1, 2015. For those residents whose annual recertification will take place between the announcement of this program but before September 1, the requirement to go to work or attend school will be delayed until September 1. For those residents whose annual recertification takes place on September 1 or thereafter, the work/school requirements will take place upon recertification and the signing of their lease.
  • For families participating in the Transitional Housing Program (THP), after their stay in said program, if they transfer to a state subsidized apartment the school/work requirement shall begin upon the signing of their lease. For those residents whose new lease will take affect between the announcement of this program but before September 1, the requirement to go to work or attend school will be delayed until September 1. For those residents whose lease signing takes place on September 1 or thereafter, the work/school requirements will take place upon the signing of their lease.
  • Failure to meet the program requirements will result in lease enforcement up to and including eviction.
  • The 1200 hour annual work requirement provides residents with flexibility as to when they start and whether or not they work/attend school full or part time. It is our hope that all residents will begin to attend school or go to work immediately after the signing of their new lease. However, for those who choose not to attend school or go to work immediately, from the initial date of recertification of the lease, a resident will have a maximum of up to 22 weeks to begin full-time work. At that point, the resident would need to work full-time, for the remainder of the year, to meet their obligation. If they are not attending school or going to work full-time by then they will be considered to be in violation of their lease and subject to lease enforcement.

V. Other Assistance

See "Services" attachment.

VI. Exemptions

1. Single family households consisting of a sole member that is 55 years old will be exempted from the program requirements.

2. Family households where all adults are 55 years old and older will be exempted from the program requirements.

3. Those adults, within a household, unable to work because of a documented disability will be exempted from the program requirements.

4.  For issues not relating to disability, a "hardship committee" will be established comprised of residents participating in the program and housing authority staff who will consider applications by residents to modify or exempt their participation in the program beyond the parameters described herein.

5.  For issues relating to disability, residents may request a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation notices and forms are provided to tenants upon lease signing and also may be obtained from the management office upon request.

NOTE:  Exemptions for an individual family may change as the age of family members and family composition changes.

VII. Definitions

Full-Time Employment

For the purposes of this program, employment will be considered full-time, if it meets all of the following:

  • Employed for no less than 1200 hours during the year;
  • Employed at minimum wage or higher;
  • Resident earns no less than 1200 hours x the minimum wage ($9.00 as of 1/1/15)

Full-Time Enrollment in Accredited Academic Program

For the purposes of this program, enrollment in an accredited academic program will be considered full time, if it meets all of the following:

  • Is a student, in good standing, is enrolled and attending an accredited post high school program;
  • Is attending school full-time in both the winter/spring and fall semesters;
  • Has met the requirements of the educational institution as being enrolled in good standing on a full-time basis.

Part-Time Employment/Part-Time Enrollment in Academic Program

For the purposes of this program, the combination of part-time employment and part-time enrollment in an accredited academic program must equal the requirements of full-time employment as stated herein. To that end, the WHA will assign an hour value to the part-time academic program for the year. That amount plus the number of part-time employment hours must equal no less than 1200 hours annually to be given credit.

Implementation

The following steps will be followed relative to the implementation of Phase 3 of the program.

  • All existing residents living in state public housing will receive notification of the program, the program requirements and their responsibilities.
  • An informational session(s) will be held to explain the program and its requirements. At that session, information will be available relative to the full range of ABL services.
  • All existing residents will only be required to meet the work/school requirements of the program following the annual recertification of their lease and the signing of a new lease as described herein.
  • The new resident lease will contain specific language, as described herein, detailing the resident’s requirements.

 

ATTACHMENT A

A Better Life

Questions and Answers

 

The following are a series of the most common questions and answers relating to our proposal.

Questions Regarding Age

1.  For single person households, what are the age limits for the program?

Single family households consisting of a sole member that is 55 years old and older will be exempted from the program requirements.

2.  For family households, what are the age limits for the program?

Family households where all adults are 55 years old and older will be exempted from the program requirements.

Questions Regarding Exemptions to the Program Requirements

1. Is there an exemption to the program requirements for individuals who are disabled?

Those adults, within a household, unable to work because of a documented disability will be exempted from the program requirements. For issues relating to disability, residents may request a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation notices and forms are provided to tenants upon lease signing and also may be obtained from the management office upon request.

2.  Are there any other exemptions for hardship or other circumstances?

For issues not relating to disability, a "hardship committee" will be established comprised of residents participating in the program and housing authority staff who will consider applications by participating residents to modify or exempt their participation in the program beyond the parameters described herein.

3. What happens to our exemption if a family member or the composition of the family changes?

Exemptions apply to the family at the time they are requested. If the age of family members changes so that it has an impact on the requirements of the program (a member turns 55 or 18 years old), the exemption status will change accordingly. A change in disability status would also change the exemption status

Questions Regarding Employment

1.  What is considered Full-Time employment?

For the purposes of this program, employment will be considered full-time, if it meets all of the following:

*  Employed for no less than 1200 hours during the year;

*  Employed at minimum wage or higher;

*  Resident earns no less than 1200 hours x the minimum wage ($9.00 as of 1/1/15)

2. What if I get laid-off from work?

The requirements of the program regarding work are for 1200 hours of employment which equals only 30 weeks of full-time work. If you get laid-off from your full-time job, you would have up to 20 weeks to find a full time job. However, your obligation is to accrue 1200 hours either full-time or full and part-time over the course of a year.

3. What if I only can find a part-time job?

Any combination of jobs which equals 1200 hours of work will satisfy the requirement including part-time work.

4. What if my partner/adult child works and I do not?

Our hope is that every adult goes to work or attends school. However, the program requires only a single adult to work 1200 hours to satisfy the requirements of the program.

5.  What if I work part-time and my partner works part-time. Can we combine our hours to reach the 1200 hour requirement?

No. The 1200 hour requirement must be attained by a single member of the household to satisfy the work requirement.

Questions Regarding Education

1.  What is considered Full-Time enrollment in accredited academic program?

For the purposes of this program, enrollment in an accredited academic program will be considered full time, if it meets all of the following:

*  Is a student, in good standing, is enrolled and attending an accredited post high school program;

*  Is attending school full-time in both the winter/spring and fall semesters;

*  Has met the requirements of the educational institution as being enrolled in good standing on a full-time basis.

2.  What is considered Part-Time employment/Part-Time enrollment in academic program?

For the purposes of this program, the combination of part-time employment and part-time enrollment in an accredited academic program must equal the requirements of full-time employment. To that end, the WHA will assign an hour value to the part-time academic program for the year. That amount plus the number of part-time employment hours must equal no less than 1200 hours annually to be given credit.

3. What if I drop out or flunk out of school?

If you drop out or flunk out of school, you will receive no credit for the most recent semester, class or program you are attending.

4. What if I only go to school part-time?

The WHA will assign an hour value to the part-time academic program for the year. That amount plus the number of part-time employment hours must equal no less than 1200 hours annually to be given credit.

5. What if my partner/adult child goes to school and I do not?

Our hope is that every adult goes to work or attends school. However, the program requires only a single adult to work 1200 hours or to attend school full-time to satisfy the requirements of the program.

Questions About Finding a Job or Going Back to School

To assist both those residing in state public housing, the Worcester Housing Authority offers the following:

1. "A Better Life" programs including case management.

2. Life Skills classes provided at no cost offering training in areas including but not limited to (1) job readiness and other job related training (2) computer literacy (3) financial literacy (4) parenting (various ages).

3. Through MassEd Co, offer professional higher educational counseling and placement advice and assistance.

4.  Several "Step-Up" apprentice programs.

5.  Dedicated case management staff who work with interested residents to help find them employment.

6.  The WHA has an "Employment Specialist" on staff whose job it is to seek out job opportunities for participants.

Other Questions

1.  Does income/hours worked from a Live-In Aide count?

No. A live-in aide is not considered a member of the household for the purposes of this program.

2.  Does income earned for foster care count? How are the hours determined?

Yes. Hours earned toward the 1200 requirement will be determined based on the income divided by the minimum wage at the time.

Question Regarding Disability Exemption

1.  What type of disabilities exempt you from the requirements of this program?

All individuals that are determined to be disabled and unable to work are exempt from the program.

2.  There are two adults in my household. One is disabled, the other is not. Are we exempted?

If all adult household members are determined to be disabled and unable to work, the household would be exempt from the program requirements. In cases where there are adult household members that are not disabled, the program requirements would apply. If some of the adult household members are disabled and others are not, but the disability present requires care by the remaining adult member, the household may apply for a reasonable accommodation.

3.  If I have a disabled child, am I exempted?

Each disability will be considered on a case by case basis by the WHA. In the example provided, a family may apply for a reasonable accommodation.


ATTACHMENT B

A Better Life Services

Program Model

Our program is based on four pillars.

  1. Believe in the ability of our residents.
  2. Set high standards
  3. Hold residents responsible
  4. Help residents reach those standards.

The current method for providing families public housing has created a system that rewards residents who are not pursuing self-sufficiency. Following the four pillars cited above, our program looks to change the way public housing is provided to families and, as a result, break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that the current system has created.

ABL participants receive a variety of support services during their involvement in the program.

 1.      Intensive Coaching


Our case managers are called Family Life Coaches.  Case management starts with a comprehensive five-part personal/family assessment including assessment of their:


    • finances/financial literacy
    • health
    • education level
    • occupational history and readiness
    • personal/family challenges.

The results of these assessments form the basis for the creation of a Family Development Plan.

 

  • Each participant is assigned to a Family Life Coach (FLC).   FLCs meet with clients bi-weekly.
  • Participants receive a Goals Plan outlining short and long term goals they will achieve in the five (5) major areas (see above).
  •  Goals Plan is designed for the entire household, including children.

2.      Employment

  • Employment Readiness.  Participants receive:
  • Employment coaching from their FLC
  • Employment readiness workshops on-site, free of charge.   Workshops include Resume Writing, Job Search, Workplace Communication, Interview Prep, etc.   Workshops are conducted by field experts including Workforce Central staff.
  • Apprenticeships
  • WHA has established close to 30 apprenticeship opportunities for our participants.
  • Apprenticeships have helped prepare participants for permanent employment and gain experience.
  • Apprenticeships range in fields such as clerical, labor, custodial, landscaping, apartment prep.
  •  Employer Partnerships
  • WHA has an Employment Specialist on staff, who works closely with community employers to secure sustainable employment opportunities for participants.
  • Employment Specialist also works closely with Workforce Central and local colleges to identify different educational paths for participants to obtain meaningful employment.

3.      Financial Literacy

  • WHA has partnered with financial agencies such as American Consumer Credit Counseling, to provide participants workshops and individual, personalized financial literacy and counseling.
  • WHA has also partnered with local banking institutions to provide participants Checking and Savings accounts along with competitive banking rates.
  • FLCs review family budgets with participants during bi-weekly meetings along with debt reduction plan and goals.

4.      Education

  • Adults
  • WHA has partnered with several educational institutions and agencies including Quinsigamond Community College, Mount Wachusett Community College, and MassEDCO to assist participants that want to pursue post secondary education
  • WHA offers ESL and Hi-Set classes on-site to participants at no cost.
  • Children
  • FLCs review the report cards of ABL children and coach participants on becoming involved and remaining involved with their child’s education.
  • WHA has partnered with several elementary, middle and high schools to assist ABL children obtain entry in prestigious local schools.  
  • WHA offers after school programs and tutoring for children as well as free summer youth programming.
  • WHA has assisted participants in obtaining childcare when needed, through partnerships with Worcester Comprehensive Education and Care and Guild of St Agnes Childcare.


5.      Health

  • WHA has partnered with numerous healthcare institutions including Edward Kennedy Community Health Center, UMass Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital and Centro Las Americas.
  • FLCs work closely with participants to ensure that they attend all their medical appointments as well as those of their children.
  • Participants have received workshops on Preventative Healthcare, Stress Management, Sex Education and Healthy Living, including nutrition and staying active.


6.      Personal

  • FLCs assist and coach participants on personal problems that arise that may be an obstacle to obtaining a goal or success.
  • WHA has partnered with Families First Parenting Programs, Parent / Professional Advocacy League, Planned Parenthood, and Worcester Community Connections Coalition to administer workshops and individual assistance on parenting.
  • WHA has partnered with YWCA and DayBreak to provide workshops and assistance to participants on domestic violence and healthy relationships.

 

7.      Workshops

  • All workshops are held onsite and dinner and childcare is provided.
  •  Other workshops administered include computer literacy (Microsoft Word, Excel, Intro to PC and Internet)


8.      Incentives

  • WHA has developed various incentives for participants as they achieve goals (short or long term)
  • Incentives include gift cards, coupons, or other prizes.

ATTACHMENT E
June 3, 2015
Updated November 25, 2015

A Better Life

Additional Questions and Answers

The following are additional questions and answers relating to our proposal.

Questions Regarding Education

1.  Do my hours attending Hi-Set (GED) classes count toward satisfying the educational hourly requirement?

The requirements of the program relate to post-secondary education. However, under the following circumstances, Hi-Set hours will be counted if the resident meets all of the following:

*  Is attending full-time, a minimum of 15 classroom hours per week offered by the WHA;
*  Full time hours will be credited if the resident is a student, in good standing, is enrolled and attending at least 85% of classes offered by the WHA (calculated on a monthly basis);
*  Those who attend less than 85% of the classes offered (calculated monthly) will receive credit for the actual hours attended.
*  Is enrolled and in full compliance with the state self-sufficiency program.
*  Hours credited only for those months attending class.

2. Do my hours attending ESL classes count toward satisfying the educational hourly requirement?

The requirements of the program relate to post-secondary education. However, under the following circumstances, ESL hours will be counted if the resident meets all of the following:

*  Is attending full-time, a minimum of 10 classroom hours per week offered by the WHA;
*  Additionally, is completing a minimum of 5 on-line hours of Rosetta Stone each week at the WHA offices;
*  Full time hours will be credited if the resident is a student, in good standing, is enrolled and attending at least 85% of classes plus on-line hours offered by the WHA;
*  Those who attend less than 85% of the classes offered plus on-line hours (calculated monthly) will receive credit for the actual hours attended.
*  Is enrolled  and in full compliance with the state self-sufficiency program.
*  Hours credited only for those months attending class.

3. Do my hours attending a Certification or Licensure academic program count toward satisfying the educational hourly requirement?

Yes. Certification and Licensure academic programs are post secondary and therefore count. For the purposes of this program, enrollment in a Certification or Licensure academic program will be considered full time, if it meets all of the following:

*  Is a student, in good standing, is enrolled and attending an accredited post high school program;
*  Is attending 15 classroom hours per week;
*  Hours credited only for those months attending class.
*  Successfully completes the current semester/period of the program.

 
Other Questions

1.  Am I required to be enrolled in the case management program (A Better Life) in order to be in compliance with the work/school requirement?

No. But there are numerous benefits that are only available to residents who are enrolled in the A Better Life (ABL) program.

ABL is a voluntary self-sufficiency program offered to residents residing in State Public Housing.  As residents go to work, their income and therefore their rent will increase. Participants of ABL are eligible to have their increase in rent put aside for them for later use.

Additionally, participants receive valuable coaching, mentoring, and support from program staff.  Participants are expected to establish short and long term goals, attend meetings with their Family Life Coach and attend Life Skills workshops.

As it relates to educational programs, a resident enrolled in ABL and performing 15 weekly hours of Hi-SET or ESL will be considered as meeting the work/school requirement, which is 23 hours per week. Residents not enrolled in ABL will not receive credit for either Hi-SET or ESL classes to apply toward their work/school requirement.

The following are additional questions and responses added November 25, 2015.

2.  A husband and wife both work part time. Can they combine their hours to meet the work/school requirement?

No. The work/school requirement is fairly minimal only 1200 hours annually. This averages to about 24 hours a week. At least one adult must meet that requirement.

3. A senior who is exempt from the work/school requirement works at least 1200 hours a year. The senior's adult child is not working or going to school. Is this family fulfilling the work/school requirement?

The short answer is yes. Even though the senior is not required to go to work or attend school, if they are working at least 1200 hours then they would have fulfilled the families requirement and the child would not be required to attend school or work. Of course, we would encourage the adult child to participate in case management services and look to move toward self-sufficiency but they would not be required to do so as long as another member of their household is working the required 1200 hours.




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