Photo: D. B. King
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently awarded over $1.9 million in grants to six Massachusetts Public Housing Authorities. Provided through HUD’s Resident Opportunities and Self Sufficiency (ROSS) Program, the funding will cover a 3-year period and support Service Coordinators at various Public Housing sites.
In a press release from March 11, Kristine Foye, HUD New England Regional Administrator, said, “these service coordinators will help Massachusetts public housing residents connect to jobs and opportunities that lead to self-sufficiency and improved quality of life.”
Founded in 2008, the ROSS program is designed to help residents achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency by combining public and private resources in the community. The Service Coordinators at each Public Housing Authority organize those resources and make them accessible to residents, providing opportunities for personal and professional growth.
“We hope to help them gain independence and gain education so they can help their families and improve their lives,” said Rhonda Siciliano, HUD Public Affairs Officer for the New England region. “It’s helping them gain access to economic opportunities that they might not otherwise have a chance to receive.”
Massachusetts’ recipients included Medford, Taunton, Holyoke, Worcester, and Lynn, with the largest sum being awarded to the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), at $738,000. According to Lydia Agro, Chief of Staff at the BHA, the majority of the funding will cover the Developing Resources for Educating Adult and Youth Minds (DREAYM) program, which offers services at five BHA developments, including more than 2,900 households.
Some of those services include job search skills and placements, GED, English as a Second Language (ESL) and post-secondary education classes. The BHA also collaborates with Boston Public Schools around school readiness, helping youth find employment, connecting them with mentors, and assisting them with getting accepted and graduating from college.
In addition to education opportunities, the service coordinators provide connections to health and wellness providers, helping residents receive health screenings, insurance, and dental care.
“In Boston, there’s a plethora of service providers but the average person doesn’t necessarily know where to go, where to look for them, so our role is to serve as a connector,” said Rachel Goodman, Director of Resident Services at the BHA.
Goodman also explained the importance of consistent funding for programs through federal grants like ROSS.
“A lot of grants, the money comes and goes, and you may start a wonderful program but after the money runs out the service goes away,” she said. “And that is very disruptive to the residents.
The Service Coordinator program has been in place since 2000 and while it has undergone some changes, it has remained relatively stable, allowing families to take full advantage of the services.
In addition to the Service Coordinators program, ROSS also provides funding for the Public Housing Family Self-Sufficiency (PH FSS) program, which offers a structured five-year plan for families to establish employment goals and become independent from welfare.
In the press release, HUD Secretary Julián Castro said, “today, we make an affirmative investment in families living in public housing to help them build a brighter future for themselves and their children. This funding allows our local partners to support residents’ goals and put them on the path toward self-sufficiency.”