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2000 Best Practice Awards

Best of the Best Winners: Kentucky

Best Practice: REACH HIGHER and Women in Construction Training Program


Bowling Green, Kentucky. Life-skills workshops lie at the heart of the REACH HIGHER program’s success in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The program includes job readiness and on-the-job training, but the life-skills classes provide participants with a positive attitude, good work habits, self-esteem and expectation of achievement that have resulted in 137 individuals graduating from the program and more than 84 percent remaining employed after graduation.

For one participant, this has meant a journey from days spent walking her sister’s children to and from day care and watching television

Photo of recipients receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Abraham Williams, Judy Garratt and Teresa Botman receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

to obtaining a job as Supervisor at Western Kentucky Day Care. A recipient of the City of Bowling Green’s Reaching Higher award, she now flies to conventions to tell her story.

In partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children, the Housing Authority of Bowling Green established the REACH HIGHER program in 1997 to help public housing and Section 8 residents, living solely on welfare assistance, transition to self-supporting jobs. The authority wrote a grant for state funds and was awarded $80,000. By 1999, the program received more than $900,000 in funding from the State Department for Community Based Services and partners that include the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce and Western Kentucky University, among others. A special community-based service staff is assigned to the housing authority office to handle interagency and participant issues.

Initial candidates had difficulty surmounting lack of childcare, local public transportation and deep financial debt. To overcome these barriers, the housing authority helped women working nontraditional hours place their children in 24-hour child care, launched car purchase and leasing programs, and worked with local banks and a credit counseling agency to consolidate and eradicate debt. A United Way Grant helped fund the car purchases program that enabled graduates to buy used vehicles for $600 with a $50 down payment. When residents had difficulty maintaining these older cars, the authority successfully applied for a $300,000 grant from the state to develop a car-leasing program. This program funds one staff member, 26 new cars, and car insurance. Participants lease the cars for $40 a month while in the program. Graduates can lease the cars for $60 a month for up to one year.

Initial community research revealed low area unemployment rates with employers scrambling to fill positions in manufacturing, service occupations and trades. A survey of public housing residents indicated the need for a job readiness program that would include mathematics, communication skills, literacy and GED classes. Once residents complete the job readiness program, the housing authority assesses their skills and places them in a 32-hour a week job-training program with area nonprofits and at the housing authority in the cabinet shop, upholstery shop, maintenance department and the secretarial division.

One day a week, participants attend life-skills classes taught by faculty from Western Kentucky University and community business leaders. From completing a job application to resolving conflicts, managing anger and finding childcare, the classes help participants learn to negotiate in the work world. Arrangements with the Department for Community Based Services and rental programs help sustain the residents during the six-month program.

The housing authority also launched a Woman in Construction program in 1999 that provides job training and placement for women in the construction trades. Funded by the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services and Kentucky Housing Corporation, this six-month program is accredited for 72.5 hours of apprenticeship training. Graduates are eligible for continuing apprenticeship programs that allow them to achieve journeyman status with its high level of skill and salary.

A commitment by state government, ongoing support services and life skills for participants during job training, and partnerships with more than 20 national and local agencies have allowed low-income residents in Bowling Green to set and achieve high employment standards.

Contact: Judy Garratt, Phone: (270) 843-6074
Tracking Number: 1239
Winning Category: Geographic

Best Practice: Owensboro Area Shelter and Information System (OASIS)

Owensboro Shelter Provides an Oasis for Homeless Women and Children

Owensboro, Kentucky. The comprehensive programs provided by the Owensboro Area Shelter and Information System (OASIS) are designed to help some of the most vulnerable members of the homeless population—battered women and their children. These families often experience complex problems that are not adequately addressed by short term emergency programs alone. The OASIS program has a significant impact on participants, especially those with chronic substance abuse problems, and provides each family member with the counseling, education, housing and supportive services that allow the family to be self-sufficient

Photo of Rebecca Hagan, Brenda Jones & Nancy Keaton receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Rebecca Hagan, Brenda Jones and Nancy Keaton receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

During the past three years, OASIS has evolved from an emergency shelter for domestic violence victims to include comprehensive services that both address the problems of domestic violence and help families regain control over their lives. While operating the initial emergency shelter, OASIS staff determined that 35 percent of the women seeking shelter had self-reported substance abuse problems that hindered their ability to be self-sufficient. The OASIS program now encompasses drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services, and medical assessment and wellness, as well as career development and child development programs. Together these programs allow the families seeking shelter to overcome their past dependencies and traumas.

The focus on safety, sobriety and self-sufficiency at OASIS is channeled through a highly structured four-phase process that achieves a lifetime maintenance of independence. Phase I of the process is crisis stabilization and includes domestic violence and substance abuse treatment and Phase II provides supportive services. Phase III is the transitional phase, which includes vocational, educational and housing services. Phase IV provides aftercare to help families maintain self-sufficiency. Intensive intake screenings and bi-weekly case assessments allow staff to identify the individual needs of each family member and craft a program to meet those needs.

The campus-style living arrangements allow more than 500 women and children to live in the residence while they receive treatment and training at OASIS, while up to 2,500 women live outside the facilities and receive treatment and benefit from supportive services. Families can remain in residence for up to one year.

In addition to the OASIS staff and board members, the program relies on a large number of partner organizations and volunteers to bring together the services that make this a comprehensive center. Facilities are provided by the Owensboro Housing Authority and a health clinic and education are conducted by the local Health Department. Local colleges and universities involve their graduate social workers in the programs and also participate in the training and education programs for the shelter residents. Two local shelters work under a cooperative agreement for resident referrals.

The children who enter the OASIS program receive the care and counseling they need to deal with past family traumas. Children under the age of five are enrolled in a structured daycare program similar to the Head Start program and after-school programs are designed for older children. Children are closely monitored by the case management team that deals with the educational, social, and emotional aspects of their lives.

OASIS was selected as a Kentucky pilot project to administer a “Women to Work” grant that provides women with the training and education to leave welfare and enter the workforce. This program is open to both residents and area TANF recipients and more than 100 women are currently enrolled. A retail job training program is also located on site to help women gain employment skills.

Contact: Rebecca Hagan, Phone: (270) 685-0260
Tracking Number: 440
Winning Category: Program (Community Planning and Development

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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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