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Project Focuses On Residents Of Public Housing

WASHINGTON —The Urban Institute has launched a project in Portland, Oregon, and Chicago today testing innovative ways for human service providers to help impoverished residents find and keep jobs, assets, and stay healthy. The three-year, approximately $6-million initiative—called Housing Opportunities and Services Together (HOST)—will evaluate ways to coordinate public housing and human services to maximize positive outcomes for parents and children.

With $3 million in seed money from the Open Society Foundation’s Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation and matching support from other sources, the Institute will work with local entities serving low-income residents in a variety of public housing and mixed-income settings. Institute researchers will help fine-tune their services addressing clients’ complex needs, provide supplementary funds for service expansion, and evaluate the project results.

“Beyond economic problems, public housing residents are often beset by myriad educational, training, health, and social difficulties,” said Susan Popkin, director of the Urban Institute’s Program on Neighborhoods and Youth Development. “This project will help get to the bottom of what it takes to strengthen and empower low-income residents and their communities. We hope the results will inform how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and local housing agencies develop place-based, supportive environments.”

The Housing Opportunities and Services Together (HOST) project will expand intervention models—from targeted asset-building and job-training assistance to intensive case management for those with multiple barriers to self-sufficiency; test these models in a variety of settings—from programs serving high-need adults and young people in traditional high-poverty public housing to populations in new mixed-income neighborhoods; and produce evidence and lessons, especially for housing agencies and policymakers, for strengthening and streamlining effective services benefiting high-need, low-income populations.


The service partners and sites are

the Housing Authority of Portland, Oregon, and the New Columbia and Humboldt Gardens mixed-income developments;
the Community Builders and the Oakwood Shores mixed-income development in Chicago; and
the Chicago Housing Authority and the Altgeld Gardens public housing development.
“The Open Society Foundations are committed to projects that create public-private partnerships that engage philanthropy to look for new models and solutions,” said Mimi Corcoran, director of Open Society’s Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation. “We are very encouraged and excited by the energy at HUD to advance efforts that foster community and create better life opportunities.”

The HOST project is based on the Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration, a three-year endeavor that offered an array of intensive services to public housing families struggling with persistent unemployment, substance abuse, and emotional and physical trauma.

The new project will also emphasize youth services—a rarity in public housing developments—because young people’s success in school, the community, and the labor market boost their life prospects and revitalize mixed-income and traditional public housing communities.


Open Society’s Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation invests in innovative efforts to strengthen the social safety net and to create better career pathways through access to quality education and training programs. 

The Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization that examines the social, economic, and governance challenges facing the nation. It provides information, analyses, and perspectives to public and private decisionmakers to help them address these problems and strives to deepen citizens’ understanding of the issues and trade-offs that policymakers face.


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