Creating a new local preference requires a change to a PHA’s plan and its Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan (ACOP). Making this type of change will require stakeholder involvement and board approval. Stakeholders that PHAs might want to involve 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 your PHA, know that service providers and their funders rarely understand the complex rules and regulations of the housing authority world. Helping these potential partners and ongoing stakeholders to understand why your PHA operates the way it does can strengthen community ties to serve homeless families and create goodwill in your community. One approach is to host a gathering for the local service agencies that are working with the families, seniors and people with disabilities who live or could potentially live in your public housing. 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 very 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. Think of this like a job application. 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 what 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 do want to learn more about service models, be sure to visit the toolkit section on Services by clicking here. We’ve also provided an RFQ template you can use to find a partner.
Establish 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 (Memoranda of Understanding) to do this. 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 public housing and a service provider is establishing regular communication between property management staff and case managers. When these staff know each other well and are connecting on a weekly basis, they can address tenant issues before they threaten housing stability. It is also important that these agreements include contact points at the executive, management and operational levels of each organization.
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