Aquanna Quarles last year met with then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. Quarles has lived in DeSoto Bass since 2007. Quarles, who enrolled in Greater Dayton Premier Management’s self-sufficiency program, was a shift manager and wanted to keep moving up the ladder. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

DeSoto Bass, Hilltop public housing residents get job help

A new job center opened this week in the heart of the DeSoto Bass Courts in West Dayton that will assist public housing residents with finding jobs and better-paying work.

Residents of the roughly 500 apartments in the DeSoto Bass and nearby Hilltop Homes public housing developments now have access to an on-site job center that has eight offices for community organizations, a computer lab, kitchen and meeting space.

The center will connect job-seekers with employers, offer work-readiness training and will help residents with job placement and financial literacy services, officials said.

The center just opened, and already 20 residents have signed up for the Jobs-Plus program, and two have already found work, said Jennifer Heapy, CEO of Greater Dayton Premier Management, the local public housing authority.

RELATED: Dayton public housing project gets $2.4M federal grant

In September, the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) visited the DeSoto Bass Courts housing project to announce it was selected for a $2.4 million grant as part of the federal Jobs-Plus Initiative Program.

Greater Dayton Premier Management was one of only six public housing authorities out of 4,000 nationwide to receive a Jobs-Plus grant award last year. The agency last year also received a $1.5 million federal grant to develop a plan to remake the West Dayton neighborhood around DeSoto Bass.

RELATED: $1.5M from feds targets changes to DeSoto Bass, West Dayton

The job center will help residents learn a trade, obtain a GED, improve their jobs skills and make other gains that help people get their first job or climb the ladder if they are already employed to become more self-sufficient and earn higher wages, Heapy said.

When residents participate in the Jobs-Plus program, they receive incentives so that their rental subsidies do not decrease when their wages rise, officials said. People in Jobs-Plus can get a 100 percent “income disregard” for up to two years.

Jobs-Plus, a four-year grant, will help pull public housing residents out of poverty by permitting them to advance in their jobs and careers to earn more money without having to fear that they will hit a benefits cliff and lose some of their rental subsidies, officials said.

Premier Management has hired a Jobs-Plus coordinator and has partnered with CareSource’s Life Services department to try to help residents obtain jobs that pay living wages, Heapy said.

CareSource offers its members services to help overcome obstacles to employment, including interview and job training, transportation and childcare assistance and budget and financial counseling.