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11/15/2012 - New Department of Labor “Innovation Fund” To Test Employment and Housing Services Collaborations

One of the challenges in providing employment services to homeless families is a lack of coordination across systems and across funding streams. Three projects recently funded through the Labor Department’s Workforce Innovation Fund (“the Innovation Fund”) are directly addressing this coordination challenge.

At the September meeting of the U.S. Interagency Council of Homelessness, Michael Mirra, executive director of the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) discussed his agency’s Housing and Employment Navigator, a specialized case management program that offers individualized and flexible supports to link homeless families served by THA and other housing programs to mainstream employment and job training services.

Tacoma’s Navigator is one of the new Innovation Fund grantees and is being implemented under the leadership of WorkForce Central. The program will serve a total of 400 families in the Puget Sound region. Under the program, homeless families are assigned a personal case manager— called a “navigator”—with specific expertise in housing, social service, and workforce systems. The navigator works with the family to develop housing and employment self-sufficiency plans; register for and enroll in employment and job training programs and interventions; and offer assistance in addressing barriers to successful completion of programs and entry into employment. Meanwhile, housing and workforce agencies at the system level are participating in integrated service planning, interagency communication, cross training of staff, and streamlining and sharing outcomes around stable housing, full employment, and reduced reliance on public benefits.