Out of a complaint came an opportunity to create pathways to self-sufficiency for Westlawn residents and other public housing and low-income residents in Milwaukee. Under the direction of Gabriel DeVougas, Section 3 coordinator for the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, HACM has exceeded its goals for a four-year voluntary-compliance program providing jobs and contracting opportunities to residents.
In 2013, the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee received a complaint about U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 3 compliance in the Westlawn housing project on the city’s north side. Section 3 sets hiring and contracting benchmarks for housing and community-development projects receiving federal assistance. In response, HACM came up with a voluntary-compliance agreement to increase job and contracting opportunities for more Westlawn residents.
“HACM strengthened its Section 3 program to make it more comprehensive and robust, providing even greater access to employment and economic opportunities for low-income and very low-income people,” said DeVougas.
DeVougas led compliance efforts and strategic initiatives over the four-year agreement with the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, the organization that filed the complaint. HACM carried out plans to connect residents with self-sufficiency opportunities, including employment, on-the-job training, life-skills development and continuing education.
“I appreciated the opportunity to receive hands-on construction training and to learn new things,” said Alonzie Bingham, a former Westlawn resident. “Now I’m looking at a construction apprenticeship as the next step.”
Bingham was one of more than 400 people the housing authority hired during the four-year compliance agreement. Nearly 65 percent (268) of them qualified as Section 3 workers, more than doubling the 30 percent goal. HACM also exceeded contract benchmarks. It awarded more than $15 million in construction contracts to Section 3 businesses, more than triple its goal.
“Diversity is critical to our organization’s success,” said DeVougas. “This work couldn’t be done without a diverse network, whether it is working with residents to meet their needs, negotiating with contractors to help meet the needs of the small business or working with the public to provide employment opportunities.”
DeVougas said HACM currently provides affordable housing to more than 10,000 Milwaukee families.
“We see the importance of having relationships that strengthen our community,” said Lee Henderson-Tatum, jobs and economics co-chair at the Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope. “I’m proud of what has been accomplished with the residents at Westlawn and the safety net put in place to help with residents’ transitions.”