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A collaboration between the city of Independence, Habitat for Humanity and other agencies will have youths repairing sidewalks in the city through June.
January 22, 2013
INDEPENDENCE -- Giving young people an opportunity to gain practical skills while beautifying Independence is the purpose behind a new partnership between the city, Habitat for Humanity and other agencies.
Habitat of the Mid-Willamette Valley and Polk HALO, a youth career services organization, are collaborating with the city to offer low-income residents the chance for subsidized repairs on their sidewalks or minor exterior home improvements.
"You hear a lot about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and the need for people who can work with their hands," said Shawn Irvine, Independence economic development director. "This is the way to get those skills -- and it has the added benefit of getting some low-income households fixed up."
Habitat has received a $20,000 grant through Job Growers, the workforce investment board of Polk, Marion and Yamhill counties, to fund this pilot program, said Tony Frazier, Habitat executive director.
A dozen supervised youths from around Polk County will repair sidewalks, wheelchair ramps and siding on low-income residences in Independence now through June. The homeowner must cover the cost of materials.
This experience in Independence will be used to possibly expand the program to other local cities, Frazier said, noting Independence was chosen because of HALO's presence.
The partnership harkens back to a program Independence and HALO offered local residents in 2009 using federal stimulus dollars.
Back then, 95 students installed picnic shelters in three parks, repaired half a mile of sidewalks and did plantings and noxious weed removal on stretches of Ash Creek.
HALO reported about 70 percent of those youths involved were either gainfully employed or doing secondary education, Irvine said.
Because this is part of Habitat's "Brush with Kindness" initiative, which focuses on low-income families, there are rules to participate. For example, households must earn between 20 to 60 percent of the area's median income.
"Obviously, if you don't have a lot of money, you might not be able to afford the material costs," Irvine said. "We might talk to churches and ask if they might sponsor some sites, or maybe pay for half of the materials.
"We hope people out there will see the benefit and that it will improve their living situation by giving value to their home."
Through the pilot program, youths will receive 240 hours of training and earn a certification recognized by the SEDCOR Construction Alliance, which represents contractors and businesses in the Willamette Valley; the certification can aid with finding a job, Frazier said.
"It's not necessarily there are no jobs out there, it's that there are no jobs for people with no skills," he said. "This ... gives them a platform to succeed."
* Independence homeowners interested in taking part in the sidewalk repair program can contact Shawn Irvine at 503-838-1212 to see if they qualify. The program does not include rental homes. For guidelines and more information, you can also visit www.ci.independence.or.us and click on the link for "sidewalk repair program."