April 1, 2015

No joke: HUD funding helps people find jobs; go to college

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Although it’s April’s Fools Day, helping low-income residents find jobs is no joke. Last week we featured an employee at a housing authority in California who used HUD funding to help someone find a job and go to college.

This week we interview Paris D. Ward, a Resident Service Coordinator in Texas who uses funding through HUD’s Resident Opportunities and Self Sufficiency – Service Coordinators (ROSS) Program to help public housing residents become self-sufficient.

What is the name of your organization and its purpose?

Our organization is the Housing Authority City of Wichita Falls and our purpose is to provide quality, safe and affordable housing to low income individuals who live in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Do you have any examples or memorable stories of how HUD/ ROSS funding has helped you help someone get a job or some training?

I do.  Here are few examples:

  • A young man entered the ROSS program as a recent high school graduate who was entering his first semester of college. After participating in the ROSS program for two years he is now enrolled in a 4-year-university and is no longer relying on government assistance.
  • A single mother moved into public housing without a job and relied on public transportation. With the help of job referrals through the local workforce center and the local United Way paying for a food handler card, she was able to secure a job at Luby’s Cafeteria in Texas.  In addition, the ROSS Program provided taxi service to and from work when public transportation was limited or not available on weekends.
  • A 17-year-old student in the 11th grade wanted to gain employment, but was unable to do so because she did not have the funds to pay for a food handler’s card. The ROSS program paid for her Food Handler’s Card and now she is employed at Raising Cane’s, a restaurant in Texas.
  • A single mother of five children and a full-time nursing student has been able to continue her education because the ROSS program helped her with childcare for her youngest daughter. In addition, the ROSS Coordinator helped the mother, who has hard time understanding English, decipher school documents regarding her financial aid as well as completing the next step in applying for U.S. citizenship.
  • A single mother of four came to a monthly “Single Parent Support Group” which is held through the ROSS Program and as a result she is going back to school to get her GED.

What was their reaction and how did it impact their life?

Many of our residents have no idea what the ROSS Program can do for them initially. They often come in just to see what ROSS is. Often, they leave their first meeting amazed at how much help they can receive through our program. When residents receive supportive services,there are often different levels of joy and appreciation. Some hug me, some cry, some just find hope in the fact that someone is actually out there to help them better their lives. I believe many of our residents feel a since of pride, because they are often accomplishing something that they thought would be unattainable. As a ROSS Coordinator, I am a cheerleader for my residents and sometimes, a tiny (but well needed) voice of reason whispering “You can do this. This is within your reach.” The impact is a positive one and often the start of more accomplishments to come.

What is the best part of being a ROSS coordinator?

Being a ROSS Coordinator is such a rewarding job. It’s a job I can honestly say I enjoy doing every day. My favorite part of the job is seeing a resident make gains and overcome something that was a true barrier for them. I am so honored to be a part of that process and to see it unfold. My second favorite is when residents come back and give updates and we are both able to see long-term progress. We take it one barrier at a time.



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