Last summer, we launched a Twitter campaign called #WHAAT Wednesdays. Each Wednesday, we ask housing authorities across the country to use the hashtag #WHAAT to share ‘What Housing Authorities Accomplished Today’ on Twitter with their local leaders and members of Congress. Momentum for #WHAAT Wednesday continues to build.
Providing shelter for families, children and adults who have fallen on hard times is a housing authority’s main function. And in these difficult times, any way to speed up and improve the process of helping those in need find shelter is helpful. The Lafayette (La.) Housing Authority did just that this month, by moving its administratively burdensome Housing Choice Voucher waiting list application process from in-person to online.
When LHA last opened its waiting list, they were greeted at their door by thousands of people hoping to secure an affordable home. “Two years ago, we accepted nearly 1,200 names in two hours,” said Katie Anderson, executive director of the Lafayette Housing Authority. “To date, we have just under 3,000 people who have applied to be added to the wait list. I’m anticipating about 4,000 names to end up going to the lottery for selection.” This year, at the end of the lottery process, 1,000 names will have been added to the waiting list, and the process itself will have been streamlined. The lottery closes on Oct. 14.
Housing authorities across the country are shifting the process online. Over the last few months, Baltimore Housing, Charlotte Housing Authority, and the St. Louis Housing Authority have all transitioned their application processes online, giving families a chance to apply without disrupting their work or school schedules.
Today, the Housing America Campaign celebrates the Lafayette Housing Authority and the countless others who continue to find quicker and more efficient ways to help those in need of safe, quality and affordable housing.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority, a Moving to Work agency, is more than just an affordable housing provider. PHA is also the largest social service agency in the City. Over the past year, the authority has made an impact in the lives of families, seniors, at-risk individuals, veterans and persons living with disabilities. Here are some outstanding examples proving PHA is more than just a home.
Helping residents to reach self-sufficiency is the driving motivation behind much of PHA’s work. Through the authority’s Education Department, 679 residents have received adult basic education testing in English, Math, and Reading helping them to become eligible for one of PHAs highly demanded job training programs. The Community Partners Program provides training in customer service, culinary arts and human services in addition to entrepreneurial training, certified nursing and commercial driving training. PHA’s Pre-Apprenticeship Program offers long-term employment at the housing authority itself for residents interested in working as a maintenance mechanic, painter or other trade specialist, or laborer. In July 2014, 171 PHA residents were also PHA employees making up 12 percent of the total agency workforce. PHA hopes to see that number grow to 25 percent, and with a waiting list of more than 50 residents, it certainly seems like the agency will reach its mark.
PHA does not take education lightly. That’s why, in 2013 and again in 2014, PhillySeeds Inc., a subsidiary of PHA, partnered with Staples, Citizens Bank, Santander Bank, Weichert Realty and local colleges and universities to get residents ready to head back to school. Through the partnership, PHA and local businesses distributed 7,000 book bags filled with school supplies in preparation for the new year. But before the school year even got started, the authority was busy offering healthy, safe activities, like participating in the Housing America Campaign’s annual “What Home Means to Me” poster contest, as well as breakfast and lunch to youth residents through their Summer Food Service Program, a PHA staple for more than 30 years. Thanks to the Summer Food Service Program, more than 61,000 meals were served in 2014 and an additional 43,000 meals were served in 2013 while simultaneously providing part-time employment for clients and residents.
One of the largest barriers to residents’ purchase of affordable homes in Philadelphia is obtaining the funds to cover closing costs. PhillySeeds, Inc., not only helps raise money for academic scholarship and entrepreneurial ventures, but it also fundraises grant money for low-income persons or families in the market to purchase an affordable home.
In 2014, PHA expanded rental housing opportunity for seniors, currently homeless and at-risk persons through partnerships with developers and local housing providers. PHA contributed 65 Project-Based Vouchers to various new developments in the metro region in an effort to increase access to affordable housing and eventually, self-sufficiency.
NAHRO thanks you, PHA, for your commitment and dedication to not only providing a home for those most vulnerable, but a way forward.