Compiled by The Bedford Citizen
During Special Town Meeting in November, 2012, Bedford Housing Authority’s Housing (BHA) Commission Chairman Eugene Clerkin presented an innovative “life management skills” line item as part of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) budget. While the proposal passed by just a slim margin, the pilot program went into effect this month.
The article was intended to creatively use and draw down some of the $600,220 that, according to Kim Siebert MacPhail’s article in the Bedford Citizen of September 20, 2013, “has accumulated in the town’s Community Preservation (CP) reserves that must be used to address affordable housing issues, Clerkin proposed that Bedford pioneer a movement away from using CP funds for only bricks and mortar projects, as the state now specifies. He recommended, instead, [creating a] pilot initiative to establish a “life management program” for the targeted population living, currently, in the Housing Authority development on Elm Street and other affordable housing developments in Town.” Click to read the full article: https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2012/09/20/clerkin-presents-proposal-to-prevent-homelessness/
After a few false starts, the contract for Bedford’s program went to bid last fall and the Housing Authority recently selected Community Teamwork Inc. (CTI) of Lowell’s proposal. A $75M per year social service agency now in its 50th year serving Lowell and surrounding communities, CTI is an optimal partner for Bedford’s project.
Last Friday, Clerkin and Brenda Peacock, Executive Director of Bedford Housing Authority, met with Connie Martin and JoAnn Howell of CTI’s Division of Energy and Community Resources of Lowell to sign a contract that sets Bedford as the first community in Massachusetts to use CPC funds for social service instead of a bricks and mortar housing project. Peacock will manage the project locally through the Bedford Housing Authority’s office at Ashby Place.
Martin noted that Bedford’s program is “incredibly innovative,” and that CTI looks forward to success in helping to help clients move toward long-term success through financial literacy, vocational training and supports for the families in the pilot project.
Once data from the two-year pilot project is tabulated, Clerkin hopes to present a proposal to the Community Preservation Coalition for possible state-wide adoption of a program modeled on Bedford’s success.
About the Program
The proposed program is a collaboration between the BHA and a Social Service Agency to provide life management skills to BHA residents in order to guide them toward increased employment and economic independence.
The program includes family assessment, specific goal setting, education and job training, and job referrals. The program delivers the components of existing federal and state agency programs to ensure that families are connected to all the resources necessary to stabilize their living situation and improve their quality of life. The program is designed for maximum flexibility, driven by the families, and builds upon the strengths of each family.
On 7/8/2013, the BHA direct mailed a survey to all BHA Family residents and Mass Rental Voucher Holders inquiring their interest in the above program. 11 families respond positively: 5 families from our Elm Street public housing; 5 Project-Based Voucher families from Bedford Village, and 1 Mobile Voucher family from Caesar Jones Way. On 9/20/2013, a second survey was sent to all 5 working age single BHA residents and 2 responded positively. Since the initial survey, a number of other families have followed up with questions. We have set the program target population at 15 families and individuals.
Step One: Individual Family Assessment, Case Management Coaching, Adult Basic Education, GED/ESOL Classes, Post Secondary Training, Career Readiness, Financial Literacy, and Good Tenant & Community Participant Workshops.
Step Two: Job Training including: Early Childhood Teacher Training, Commercial Driver License Training, Construction Trades, and Health Careers
Residents will be provided with child care and transportation if needed. Area employers will leveraged to help participants get a foot in the door through internships, job shadowing opportunities, and job interviews. Individuals who obtain employment will receive supports to maintain the job and advance towards family sustaining wages.
Our goal is a two-year “PILOT” program that will be administered by a local Social Service Agency provider, monitored by the BHA, with results reported out to the community. Participants will be evaluated on credit score, job interviews and placement, increase in income, and volunteer participation in our community.
How does this project help preserve Bedford’s character?
The target families are residents of Bedford, and interested in receiving resources and training to improve their quality of life. The BHA operates as a real estate management company, dependent upon net operating income of its residents to cover costs of operations and capital improvements.
An increase in resident income positively impacts the BHA bottom line and creates less dependence upon local resources.
The Life Management program raises awareness about the community, what it means be a good neighbor, and how to engage successfully in the community as a BHA resident.