In 2000-2001, the Hartford, CT Housing Authority was the first in the nation to make building deconstruction required under its HUD HOPE VI grant to demolish the sprawling Stowe Village Public Housing Project. The project was a component of the Authority's innovative Family Reunification program. Ten unemployed Black and Latino men and women were trained for the careful takedown of buildings and resale of recovered building materials. From the first day on site the workers were members of the local Laborers International Union with permanent jobs and full union benefits. One worker grew up in the very building he was deconstructing. "Now, I can pay my own way and have health insurance for my wife and children," stated one trainee who went on to become a site foreman and purchase one of the new houses built on the site he had cleared.
Within two years building deconstruction was making an impact in Baltimore with the start up of Second Chance, a non-profit social enterprise started by a successful restaurateur, Mark Foster, with six trained workers. Today Second Chance employs 165 workers, which have been recruited from the city's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) rolls. Under a set of unique contracts between the enterprise and city agencies workers are paid to participate in a 16-week training program. Upon successful completion workers have a guaranteed job starting at from $10-$12 per hour. Second Chance is a business that encourages its workers, most of whom were hard to employ veterans, returning citizens and discouraged workers, to seek better jobs. Each year, 10-20 of these workers find new and better jobs; creating more openings for new trainees.
Author: Neil Seldman