Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders and County Legislator Bishop James D. Tindall (2nd District) announced the second project in the County's Constructing Futures program to a packed crowd of media and interested neighbors March 2 at the Vineyard Neighborhood Association offices (4301 East 43rd Street). Constructing Futures is an ongoing collaborative program between Jackson County and several community partners to provide housing for families in need. The program simultaneously provides on-the-job training to the individuals working to rehabilitate the home and removes the threat of abandoned housing in vulnerable neighborhoods. The community partners for this Constructing Futures project include: Connections to Success, a non-profit organization helping to reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals into the community; general contractor Gentlemen of the Roundtable; Habitat for Humanity; and the Vineyard Neighborhood Association. The house selected for restoration is in the 4400 block of Myrtle Avenue in Kansas City's Vineyard neighborhood.
One Program - Three Social Issues
Speaking to a full house, Sanders noted that the neighborhood was already enthusiastic about the project. He recalled experiences from his former role as Jackson County's Prosecutor when discussing how restoring just one vacant home can impact a community.
"We all know those houses can become havens for criminal activity," Sanders said. "Once you shut that drug house down and move the drug dealers out, people would come out and start sweeping the sidewalk."
Referring to the job training that the program provides, Sanders quoted United States Congressman Emanuel Cleaver who said, "The greatest social program I've ever seen is a job." Sanders summed up the program with, "One program, under one roof, three social issues that we know we can impact."
Sanders recognized Legislators Tindall and Theresa Garza Ruiz (1st District At-Large) for their efforts in supporting the Constructing Futures program.
Ending Homelessness One House At A Time
As Chairman of the Housing Resources Commission Bishop Tindall thanked Director Celestine Williams and the members of the Commission for funding this project. He also thanked Habitat for Humanity for donating the house and expressed the goal of all the partners when he said, "We want to end homelessness one family at a time, one house at a time."
Bob Jones, co-founder of Gentlemen of the Roundtable, addressed the crowd, noting his organization's commitment to job training for formerly incarcerated individuals. "All these guys in our group know how to survive," he said. "What we're doing is teaching them how to live."
Brad Lambert, Director of Connections to Success observed that the project "demonstrates how local government and nonprofit organizations can come together to create sustainable change in our communities." He invited the community to donate needed supplies to help support this project in the Vineyard Neighborhood.
Barbara Nelson of Kansas City, the recipient of the first Constructing Futures home in April 2009, was also in attendance. Her words brought the message and the meaning of this program home to all: "Each and every day me and my girls wake up, I still thank God, I thank Jackson County, and I thank the people that helped us get the house. It feels good not to be homeless."