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2000 Best Practice Awards

Best of the Best Winners: Texas

Best Practice: Job Creation Through Small Business Development and Retention


Marshall, Texas. The community of Marshall is using a four-pronged educational and employment approach to tackle the town’s long-term economic distress from plant closings and production cutbacks in oilfield- and ammunition-related industries. Although one-fourth of residents live in poverty, Marshall encouraged development of 61 small businesses resulting in 195 jobs and opened a technical college where 400 residents are currently enrolled.

To overcome limited educational and skill levels and high levels of illiteracy, the city

Photo of Janet Cook receiving award from Secretary Cuomo and Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Janet Cook (c) receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

undertook four programs offering basic academic skills and training in advanced technologies:

  1. A Marshall campus of the Texas State Technical College to offer the technical training that pays high wages and is in demand by employers

  2. Literacy education through partnership with the local literacy council

  3. An aggressive small business development and retention program to create jobs

  4. Funds to support small business development

Marshall’s first project was a city-owned Business Development Center launched in 1990. Next, the community lobbied the state legislature to create and fund the operational costs of the technical college, which opened in 1993. In 1995, local banks formed a bank-sponsored community development corporation that makes loan funds available to micro-businesses in partnership with the Business Development Center. The center’s staff provides loan applicants with the technical assistance needed to prepare business plans and loan applications.

Using the college’s high-tech resources, the Development Center expanded in 1999 to a business incubator called the Center for Applied Technology, located on the campus. The close relationship between the incubator and the college will provide opportunities for technology transfer and ensure support from college faculty. One of the incubator’s buildings serves as an inexpensive retail cooperative for local manufacturers to sell their products, allowing them to increase revenue and jobs. A second building operates as an arts incubator where eight resident artists have opened retail studios and 11 artists participate in a cooperative teaching program. The center provides space for instruction and shares course fees with instructors.

The program involved partnership and funding from local, state and federal government agencies, three nonprofits and private businesses that donated land, buildings, equipment and expertise. Marshall Economic and Development Corporation funds supported the Business Development Center, campus land purchase and site construction. CDBG funds helped supplement the operational costs of the literacy council. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency awarded funds for a small business loan program. The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration funded the business incubator, high-technology center and campus construction.

In an area seeking to renew its economic base, partners needed little convincing to support long-term economic opportunity by investing in a well-educated and well-trained workforce.

Contact: Janet Cook, Phone: (903) 935-4455
Tracking Number: 304
Winning Category: Geographic

Best Practice: Texoma Housing Partners


Bonham, Texas. In rural north central Texas, you can drive 15 miles and hit three public housing authority jurisdictions. Less than 10 years ago, these small housing authorities struggled to survive and sustain the low-income families they supported. To assist these near-troubled authorities, HUD Fort Worth staff asked the Texas Council of Governments (TxCOG) to become involved. In 1993, TxCOG established administrative contracts with eight of the authorities to provide professional management from one office.

As word began to spread throughout the area about the efficiency of TxCOG’s

Photo of Allison Cardell and Susan Budrah receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Allison Cardell and Susan Budrah receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

management, other public housing authorities joined the partnership, which became a nonprofit organization called Texoma Housing Partners. To date, 16 authorities ranging in size from 6 to 104 units totaling approximately 500 units partici-pate in the partnership, which covers four north-central Texas counties. Thus began the long process of working with the separate housing authority boards to form one board, one budget, one administrative staff and a centralized maintenance crew, on call 24 hours a day.

The Texoma Housing Partners is the first organization to implement the Quality Housing and Work Respon-sibility Act of 1998, which allows two or more small housing authorities to develop partnerships to operate their programs. Texoma Housing Partners have faced the challenges that accompany unpaved paths. Housing authority board members with many years invested in their city agendas initially questioned merging into one board with one representative from each authority. TxCOG staff built trust by meeting with the housing authority boards one at a time to discuss the financial and administrative benefits.

Streamlined operations and dramatic cuts in duplicated expenses eventually convinced the housing authorities to join the partnership. Anticipated annual savings run between $75,000 and $100,000. Specific savings are expected from limiting expenses such as conducting one audit at a cost of approximately $1,000 rather than 16 audits, one set of construction bids requiring advertisements costing approximately $1,000 rather than 16 bids and ads, insurance for one board at approximately $2,500 rather than insurance for 16 boards, and one in-house certified public accountant.

“Since a six-unit housing authority has similar requirements to a 6,000-unit housing authority,” says TxCOG Public Housing Director Allison Cardile, “we are realizing the efficiencies of grouping them together.”

Ultimately, the 1,200 residents of the housing authorities benefit through better service, additional funds for capital improvements and property compliance with HUD requirements such as fair housing and safety issues. Vacancy rates have decreased because of the capital improvements and expanded marketing. HUD monitoring staff can now work with one administrative staff, and the housing authorities enjoy efficient management and pooled resources.

Contact: Frances Pelley, Phone: (800) 677-8264
Tracking Number: 552
Winning Category: Program (Public and Indian Housing)

Best Practice: Lubbock Habitat for Humanity - Increasing Affordable Housing through Vocational Education


Lubbock, Texas. A partnership between Habitat for Humanity in Lubbock, Texas, the Lubbock Independent School District, and the Windham School District of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has provided six homes to families who could not otherwise afford a home or are currently living in substandard or shared housing. The partnership helps address the real need for affordable housing for low- to very low-income families, the need for skilled construction workers and the need for vocational education to provide marketable skills for both students and prisoners.

The vocational education consists of

Photo of John Mallory receiving Best of the Best award
John Mallory (c) receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

classroom time and hands-on experience. Lubbock Habitat provides the funding for the materials and the licensed labor needed to build a house. The students build the house in a parking lot, and after completion of the students’ portion, the home is moved to its site where Habitat volunteers complete the home. The first home built under this partnership was dedicated in November 1998. Since that time, two more homes have been completed.

The partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was established in September 1998, and the first home was constructed as part of two 90-day courses. The inmates built the home, did the rough plumbing and wiring, as well as put in the insulation, windows and doors. This program teaches inmates marketable skills that they can use when they leave the correctional facility, and the inmates will see tangible results of their labor.

Lubbock Habitat not only instituted a creative way to provide labor for the construction of homes, but also provided students and inmates with a program that gives them valuable trade skills. Taxpayers benefit because the tax base has increased.

The Lubbock partnership can be replicated in three easy steps:

  • Determine a source of funds for materials and paid labor. Grants or charitable contributions can be used. Although Lubbock Habitat used no HUD funding, the program could easily be modified to use HUD funds. Providing both housing and vocational education is a good way to leverage funds.

  • Determine a basic outline for the proposed partnership, i.e., who will provide the materials and services.

  • Seek and obtain a partnership with school or correctional facility.

Contact: John Mallory, Phone: (806) 763-4663
Tracking Number: 872
Winning Category: Geographic

Best Practice: The Village at Fox Creek

The Village at Fox Creek Provides New Housing with Access to Amenities

Killeen, Texas. A housing development in Texas, the Village at Fox Creek, provides low- and very low-income families access to new housing units located near a main thoroughfare as well as life-enhancing amenities. This is the first affordable housing development in the community of Killeen that combines housing units near multiple services—employment opportunities, shopping and medical services— specifically for the low- and very low-income community.

Thirteen percent of the 128 new affordable housing units provided by the program are designed to meet accessibility requirements

Photo of Cinda Hayward receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Cinda Hayward (c) receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

for individuals who have visual, physical and mobility impairments.

The development was made possible through the collaborative efforts of private sector funding, HOME Investment Partnerships Program funding and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. The project makes it possible for the occupants to be able to access employment opportunities, medical services, school and educational services, as well as being conveniently located near shopping and recreational facilities.

To replicate this project, the first step would be to perform a community needs assessment to determine the housing need of low- and very-low income households, factoring in the population and demographics of those who would occupy the units (general population, elderly, etc.).

The second is to seek partnerships and support from within the community as well as local, state, and federal government leaders to approach and seek out reputable affordable housing developers. It is important to determine project cost and time for completion—location will be a key factor in placing the project in a highly accessible area near necessities and amenities (employment, schools, medical access and elementary, secondary and higher education sources). It is also helpful to provide the public and beneficiaries with resources so they will become involved in the excitement of the development. Addressing all technical aspects of the development, ensuring an effective action plan for monitoring and maintaining communications is imperative so that all parties involved are aware of the expectations of the administrator.

Contact: Cinda Hayward, Phone: (254) 501-7841
Tracking Number: 852
Winning Category: Program (Community Planning and Development)

Best Practice: Austin Works Together

"Austin Works Together" Project Moves Welfare Recipients to Self-Sufficiency

Austin, Texas. The Housing Authority of the city of Austin, Texas developed the Austin Works Together (AWT) project to help welfare recipients and other eligible individuals make the transition from welfare dependence to self-sufficiency. The combination of welfare reform, a disjointed, inefficient service delivery system and local economic factors generated a need for a comprehensive, intensive welfare-to-work program. A 1998 survey of public housing residents revealed that 62 percent have no high school diploma or GED, and 27 percent have an education level of ninth grade or below.

Photo of Craig Harrick & Cindy Vartch receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Craig Harrick and Cindy Vartch receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

To date, 67 project participants are employed, and the project is projected to exceed its enrollment goals by up to 25 percent.

The Austin Works Together Project is an excellent example of the capacity that housing authorities have to affect welfare reform efforts in their communities. Historically, Austin’s service delivery system for workforce development has been disjointed; although government agencies and private nonprofit organizations served many of the same people, they rarely collaborated in a substantive way.

The absence of collaboration acted as a barrier to creative, effective approaches to welfare reform. For example, an agency that helped someone obtain a job did not have the services to allow that person to retain the job and earn higher wages. Austin Works Together was designed to help break this pattern. Case managers assess client interests, strengths and needs and tailor the services accordingly. The housing authority helped break this pattern of isolation by agreeing to administer $1.7 million in Department of Labor welfare-to-work grant funds. “Austin Works Together brings many partners together and provide services and programs for our residents right where they live,” says James Hargrove, the housing authority’s executive director.

Case managers refer clients to AWT partners for education, training and job placement services. The Central East Austin Community Organization (CEACO) provides professional clothing for interviews and recruits mentors, many of whom are former welfare recipients. CEACO’s Job Success Workshop is a 30-hour course that teaches job search techniques and important life skills such as budgeting, communication, assertiveness, crisis coping and parenting.

“Austin Works Together provides multiple training opportunities and job opportunities to traditionally underemployed populations,” says Hargrove. “As a result of these efforts, many families that would otherwise be unemployed have found jobs.”

In order to replicate this project or to simply attract more workforce development resources for its residents, a housing authority can:

l Demonstrate its commitment to welfare reform. l Establish a reputation as a good partner. l Establish a relationship with its local Workforce Board. l If given responsibility for administering a sizable project, a housing authority should secure the resources to hire a coordinator who will oversee the project. The coordinator manages the procurement process and provides ongoing technical assistance and monitoring of all project partners.

Contact: James Hargrove, Phone: (512) 477-4488
Tracking Number: 1174
Winning Category: Geographic


Best Practice: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Sidewalk Job Training Project

CDBG Sidewalk Job Training Project Provides both Job Skills and Better Sidewalks

Wichita Falls, Texas. The City of Wichita Falls, Texas has developed a program that fulfills two needs in the community: the Sidewalk Job Training Project repairs public sidewalks and provides unemployed or unskilled individuals the opportunity to acquire valuable job skills. This unique program teaches participants the basics of concrete work through sidewalk construction and allows them the opportunity to attain a commercial driver’s license.

With long-term highway construction projects underway, the City of Wichita Falls was facing a shortage of trained labor and construction workers. In addition, sidewalks

Photo of David Clark & Catherine Fitch receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
David Clark and Catherine Fitch receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

in many areas of the city were aging and had fallen into disrepair. The Sidewalk Job Training Project provides the maintenance and repair services that improve the quality of life in neighborhoods, while creating a skilled labor force capable of gaining full time employment.

The program is operated by the City of Wichita Falls through Community Development Block Grant funds. It is a six-month job training program for individuals with few or no job skills—often participants who enter the program are dependent on welfare. The City provides employees to supervise the project and provide training, in addition to supplying needed equipment and wages for the participants. In return, workers learn to operate equipment and tools, remove old concrete, build concrete forms, and pour and smooth new concrete. The skills and work experience increase participants’ marketability in the local labor market and also exposes them to the intangible qualities that help them find and maintain employment, such as the value of job responsibility and how to meet performance standards.

By working in the Sidewalk Job Training Project, participants have the opportunity and are encouraged to apply for a commercial driver’s license. Since Texas law requires that applicants be employed in a position requiring a commercial driver’s license before the test can be administered, participating in the program provides a rare opportunity to receive this valuable certification. The program also makes vehicles available to workers so they can take the driving portion of the test.

The Sidewalk Job Training program takes advantage of the rain delays that prevent cement work by creating additional learning opportunities for participants. During this time they can learn more about concrete forms, take safety courses, and tour local concrete plans and laboratories to learn about the technical properties of concrete. Workers can also use this time to study for their driver’s license exam.

A significant benefit of the program for participants is the experience with city projects and the solid job attendance track record they can achieve, which helps in applying for permanent city jobs. Of the 48 individuals who have participated in the program, 18 have been promoted to full-time employment with the City of Wichita Falls and 16 have been hired by other employers or have gone on to attend college.

The benefits of the Sidewalk Job Training project also extend to the livability of the City, since improving sidewalks can have a great impact on the appearance and the safety of a neighborhood. The program focuses on repairing dilapidated sidewalks or creating sidewalks in CDBG target areas, providing improvements in sectors of the community such as low-income neighborhoods, the downtown area, city parks, areas around public schools, and public facilities in the city and the county. The program also builds wheelchair-accessible ramps when needed.

Contact: Catherine Fitch, Phone: (940) 761-7454
Tracking Number: 2539
Winning Category: Geographic


Best Practice: Central Dallas Ministries-Church Health Ministries

Central Dallas Ministries Lend A Hand to the Community

Dallas, Texas. The Church Health Ministries is a collaborative effort responding to the need for improved preventative health care treatment for low-income and uninsured residents of East Dallas. By working with health care institutions and area churches, the services of the Central Dallas Ministries walk-in medical clinic have been expanded to include preventative care that reduces the number of emergency room visits by area residents.

Central Dallas Ministries has been serving residents in Dallas Housing Authority communities and surrounding neighborhoods for more than 10 years, providing services ranging from food pantries to GED training,

Photo of Marcia Epperson & Marcia Lewis receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Marcia Epperson and Marcia Lewis receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

to summer camp for kids, as well as conducting a weekly walk-in medical and dental clinic. As the number of emergency room and hospital admissions for residents of this area began to rise, a major gap in the affordable health care services available to the neighborhoods served by Central Dallas Ministries was identified. A collaboration of area health care systems, including Baylor University and the County hospital; the East Dallas Weed and Seed program to prevent drug use; several local churches and community providers; and the Central Dallas Ministries came together to address the issues.

In 1998, the work of the partnership led to the creation of the Church Health Ministries program. Through Church Health Ministries, the services of the medical and dental clinic operated by Central Dallas Ministries were greatly expanded to incorporate preventative care, including physicals, well-women exams, cancer screenings, and other health services. These medical services are available to residents who are unemployed or, more often employed but unable to afford health insurance.

Church Health Ministries also launched strategic outreach efforts to overcome the fear and mistrust some residents had of the health care system by utilizing organizations they trust: their churches. To emphasize the need for regular medical exams and raise awareness of the programs available, Church Health Ministries works with members of local congregations to provide three levels of health assistance. Congregational Nurses are registered nurses who act as health counselors and educators, and provide referrals to their congregations. Lay Health Promoters also act within the congregations as extensions of the nurses, referring individuals for further evaluation and sometimes accompanying patients to their medical appointments. Benefits Counselors work with patients and community members to explain the processes and evaluate their eligibility for accessing various health benefit programs. Many patients are unaware that they are eligible for programs such as Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

By working closely with the neighborhoods it serves and listening to resident’s concerns, Church Health Ministries develops the care that people need and also brings in people who might not otherwise be involved in its programs. In 1999, the 900 volunteers of the program made more than 7,500 patient contacts in the community through the clinics, referrals, or benefits guidance. Preliminary findings also show that the areas targeted by the program have experienced a drop in hospital emergency room visits.

Contact: Larry James, Phone: (214) 823-8710 Ext.17
Tracking Number: 912
Winning Category: Program (Public and Indian Housing)

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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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