PHAs that are interested in changing local preferences will need to adopt those changes formally in their Section 8 Administrative Plans. Doing so will require stakeholder involvement and board action. Stakeholders might include the general public, current residents and voucher holders, members of local homeless planning groups and service providers.
While working with human service and behavioral health systems may be new to you and your PHA, know that service providers and their funders rarely understand the complex rules and regulations of the PHA world. Helping these potential partners and ongoing stakeholders to understand why your PHA operates the way it does can strengthen your network, serve homeless families and create goodwill in your community. One way you can get to know each other is to host a gathering for the local service agencies that are working in your area. This might be an introductory meeting in which the PHA and service agencies give each other an overview of their programs, or it might include a slightly more formal presentation or training. It is important to think through who you invite to this type of meeting both from the provider teams and from your own staff. While formal partnership agreements are eventually executed by senior leadership, all staff can find it empowering to learn about services. Building relationships between PHA and service program staffs will create a solid foundation for ongoing day-to-day collaboration.
Find the Right Partner
A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is an effective way to solicit a partner service agency. It’s up to you how much detail you want in writing, how you conduct interviews and whether or not you check references (always a good idea). Think through the specifics of your program, the barriers people who are homeless currently face in your jurisdiction and the services you think they need in order to succeed. You can even ask the service agencies themselves which criteria you should use in selecting your partners. Don’t worry about using the right service terminology. A good partner will explain their jargon to make sure you’re on the same page. If you want to learn more about service models, be sure to visit the toolkit section on Services by clicking here.
When possible, CSH recommends allocating resources in collaboration with the funders of supportive services. The end result is the same, a partnership with a service provider, but by collaborating with other funders in an RFQ, PHAs can be certain that service funding is tied to housing goals. This will also give you direct information as to how long the services are funded. Click here for examples of PHAs that offer their resources in collaboration with other funders.
Create a Partnership Agreement
Once you’ve selected the right partner, you’ll want to formalize your understanding of each other’s roles in a written agreement. Most PHAs use MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) with their service partners. These documents lay out the purpose of the partnership and the roles and responsibilities of each member. One of the most critical elements of an MOU between an HCV program and a service provider is establishing a single point of contact from each agency. When a direct, personal link exists between the two primary contacts, both the PHA and service provider can move swiftly in addressing participant challenges before they threaten voucher or housing stability. It is important that these agreements include contact points at the management and operational levels of each organization.
Go to the next section to learn from other PHAs across the country.