In 2013 workforce navigators in four counties formed teams of employment, housing and social service specialists to work with individuals to overcome barriers to employment and housing. The pilot project was funded by a federal Workforce Innovation Fund grant. The work was intensive, the research comprehensive and the results promising.
The Navigator Model helps people find a job, keep a job and secure stable housing. It brings together regional workforce councils, local housing providers, the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and other services that serve homeless families.
Workforce Innovation Grants encourage service delivery changes that result in better outcomes and lower costs. The model’s intervention relies on the role of the navigator – in this case a local workforce staff member. The navigator provides direct support to help families get training, find and keep jobs, move into permanent housing and make progress toward self-sufficiency.
Navigator intervention creates a single point of contact for clients who are often addressing formidable issues. The navigator connects the client to other service providers and helps develop a coordinated response to client needs. This team approach includes regular meetings between service providers, especially housing case managers and DSHS contacts.
Navigators also can draw on a financial attainment fund that provided quick access to flexible dollars to address client emergencies where other funds weren’t available.
A Navigator works one-on-one with families to assess their individual circumstances and address specific barriers to employment within the household.
The three-year study sought to uncover better, faster ways of helping homeless families find stability. It was undertaken by a consortium of three workforce development councils, the Building Changes organization and Marc Bolan Consulting, an independent research and evaluation firm. It involved more than 600 clients assigned to navigator or control groups in Yakima, Pierce, Skagit and Whatcom counties.
Clients were randomly assigned to Navigator or control groups and data was assessed at 9 months, 18 months, 24 months and, in some cases, 36 months. Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected from participants, other stakeholders and service databases.
The Navigator Model study began showing improved outcomes for navigator clients over control group participants at the 18- and 24-month follow-up periods in the areas of employment, employment retention and housing permanency. Overall, few differences were observed between the groups in terms of hourly wages and public assistance utilization.
This model shines light on a new way for workforce development partners and human services organizations to do business.
Employment rates for navigator clients jumped between the 18- and 24-month follow-up periods. At 24 months, the study found navigator clients had a 10 percent higher employment rate than people in the control group. Client and stakeholder interviews, as well as activity data, showed that navigators worked with 93 percent of their clients on employment services; 80 percent of clients participated in education or job training.
The study found that, at 24 months, navigator clients showed an 11 percent higher employment retention rate over control group participants. Employment retention was measured as having retained employment for at least 6 months.
At the 24-month follow-up period, the housing permanency rate for navigator clients was 5 percent higher than that of the control group. This data point suggests the possibility of long-term benefits to the navigator model.
Clients who worked more closely with their navigator on housing showed substantially higher long-term housing rates that those who had less interaction with navigators, suggesting navigators experienced an increased willingness to use attainment funds to support housing needs the more they interacted with their client.
The study looked at the utilization of public assistance through TANF, food stamps and DSHS medical insurance.
TANF utilization initially went up within the navigator group as clients were helped to access needed resources. By 18 and 24 months, however, TANF utilization was decreasing. This was the same period in which employment rates for the navigator group increased significantly.
Food stamp and medical insurance assistance showed little variation between groups at 18 and 24 months. This aligns with the study’s finding of insignificant variation in hourly wages. Because employment and retention rates started to show significant differentiation at 24 months, it is possible that a longer study would show more distinction between the groups.
The Navigator Model Study was implemented by a consortium of regional workforce development councils and their partners. Workforce development councils create stronger local economies and families by improving the skills and quality of the workforce and increasing individual economic self-sufficiency.
Regional Workforce Councils
23 different local housing providers
DSHS, Community Services Offices