The Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration was an innovative effort to test the feasibility of providing wraparound supportive services, including work supports, for vulnerable public housing families. This brief explores the employment experiences of Demonstration participants. Surprisingly, despite an extremely difficult labor market, employment increased. Further, the intensive Transitional Jobs program appears to have contributed to these employment gains. Yet, despite increases in employment, the economic situation for most Chicago Housing Authority families remains tenuous. For those who remained unemployed, the Demonstration's services failed to address a multitude of personal and structural barriers to work.
The text below is an excerpt from the complete document. Read the entire brief in PDF format.
In 2009, the Urban Institute followed up
with the Chicago Panel Study respondents
to assess how they were faring as the
Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA)
ambitious Plan for Transformation completed
its first decade.1 Respondents’ well-being had
improved in important ways: they were living
in substantially higher-quality housing in
much safer neighborhoods (Buron and Popkin
2010; Popkin and Price 2010). Given that
respondents’ lives had improved, it seemed
plausible that their mental and physical health
might have gotten better as well. However, the
Panel Study respondents’ health had actually
worsened in the four years since they were last
interviewed. In fact, the levels of reported
health problems for the CHA Panel Study
sample in 2009 were stunning, far higher than
national averages, and the mortality rate was
shockingly high. The only positive health news
was that CHA Panel respondents reported
significantly lower levels of anxiety than they
had before relocation (Price and Popkin 2010).
These findings clearly indicated the need for
innovative strategies to address the health
challenges facing CHA families.
The Chicago Family Case Management
Demonstration ran from March 2007 to
March 2010, overlapping with the 2009
CHA Panel Study (Popkin et al. 2010). The
Demonstration—a partnership of the Urban
Institute, the CHA, Heartland Human Care Services, and Housing Choice Partners—
intended to test the feasibility of providing
wraparound supportive services for vulnerable
public housing families (Popkin et al. 2008).
The Demonstration provided residents from
the CHA’s Dearborn Homes and Madden/
Wells developments with intensive case management
services, transitional jobs, financial
literacy training, and relocation counseling.
The Urban Institute conducted a rigorous
evaluation, including a baseline and follow-up
survey, administrative interviews, focus groups
with service providers and program administrators,
in-depth resident interviews, and
analysis of program and administrative data
(see text box on page 8). Where possible, outcomes
for the Demonstration were compared
with those from the 2009 CHA Panel Study.
As a result of the findings from the five-site
HOPE VI Panel Study research, one key goal
of the Demonstration was to improve participants’
mental and physical health. The
Demonstration’s baseline participant survey in
2007 reinforced the decision to increase the
focus on mental health; high levels of crime
and fear were adversely affecting respondents’
general well-being, with those who were more
fearful also reporting higher levels of anxiety
and physical mobility problems (Roman and
Knight 2010). Heartland incorporated health
services into intensive case management
(along with transitional jobs, financial literacy,
and relocation counseling) rather than creating
a separate service. As Heartland staff began
implementing this model, lowering caseloads
and increasing engagement, case managers
quickly identified a critical need for additional
services to address participants’ deep mental
illness and substance abuse challenges (Popkin
et al. 2008). While Heartland was unable to
offer other health services directly, the agency
partnered with a local hospital to arrange for a
visiting nurse to come to the sites and provided
periodic health screenings, such as
checking blood pressures.
The Demonstration intentionally targeted
vulnerable public housing families—that is,
those facing multiple, complex challenges.
Given the results from previous research, we
expected their health trajectory would be similar
to—or even worse than—the CHA Panel
Study sample. But results from the 2009
follow-up survey painted a much different
picture than we had anticipated: in contrast
to the Panel Study sample, Demonstration
participants’ health did not deteriorate over
time, and their anxiety levels improved as
much, or more, in a shorter time. While some
signs are positive, rates of chronic illness and
mortality for the Demonstration population are extremely high, and substance abuse and
mental illness remain serious problems for
This brief reviews the findings from the
Demonstration on physical and mental
health, considers the possible explanations
for the differences from the Panel Study, and
discusses the implications for policy and
(End of excerpt. The entire brief is available in PDF format.)
This brief is part of the Supporting Vulnerable Public Housing Families: An Evaluation of the Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration series.
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