Key Features of Mature Employment Programs in Seven Public Housing Communities
Since 1997, the Jobs-Plus Community Revitalization Initiative for Public Housing Families has been under way at seven public housing developments in six cities across the nation. This ambitious employment initiative seeks to significantly raise employment levels and earnings of residents living in low-work, high-welfare public housing developments. Operating from an on-site job center at each development, Jobs-Plus targets employment assistance, financial incentives, and community supports for work to all working-age, nondisabled residents of a development. None of the programs began as fully formed interventions, evolving instead over several years. But with the exception of the one at the Chattanooga site, which became a financial-incentives-only program, all of the programs now offer all three of the Jobs-Plus components. The chapters of this report provide “snapshot” descriptions of Jobs-Plus as it has been operating at each of the six demonstration sites as of the summer of 2002.
Key program features
- Employment-related services and activities are widely available in the form of job readiness and job search assistance and education and vocational training opportunities, as well as support services such as transportation and child care assistance. Although Jobs-Plus offers some group services and classes at the developments, most employment-related services are offered either through individualized case management or referrals to off-site providers. In addition to helping residents with job placement, the sites also consider clients’ job retention and career advancement needs. Across the sites, the specific content of these services varies in accordance with local circumstances and needs. For example, special efforts are made to accommodate monolingual Spanish-speakers in Los Angeles, who require language and immigration assistance to secure employment, or for substance abusers in Baltimore and Dayton, who need treatment and recovery support programs.
- Financial incentives have been implemented to encourage residents to find and keep jobs by limiting the increases in rent they would normally face if they increase their income by working. Generally, the approaches taken across the sites have either replaced rents traditionally based on the level of a household’s income with flat rents that are based on the size of the apartment unit, instead, or they calculate tenants’ rent based on a smaller percentage of the household’s income than would commonly be used in rent calculations authority-wide. The plans vary from site to site in how incentive features are structured, as well as in other details, such as the use of escrow accounts and rent credits to promote savings or encourage job retention.
- Community support for work was the slowest component to develop. It has since coalesced as institutionalized outreach by residents who are trained and hired to go door-to-door to distribute information about specific job openings, education and training opportunities, and Jobs-Plus’s services and activities, and to relay residents’ concerns back to the program staff.
This report complements other implementation research at MDRC that is drawing cross-site lessons from Jobs-Plus about how residents are engaged in the program, how the financial incentives are administered, and how the community support for work component is developed. By describing how the Jobs-Plus model was implemented site-by-site, this report will also serve as a foundation for understanding what precisely was tested as the analysis proceeds of Jobs-Plus’s effects, or “impacts,” on residents’ employment and wage levels and quality of life across the sites. The descriptions of the distinctive characteristics of each site’s Jobs-Plus approach presented in this report may offer clues to why any ultimate impacts vary across the sites.