It was the perfect example of connecting people, ideas and resources when Hamilton Community Foundation helped launch a program that trained out-of-work people in construction and gave downtown residents small exterior property renovations they could not otherwise afford.
Last spring, HCF grants manager Sharon Charters learned about the need for a home renovation loans program and brought it to the Hamilton Funders network. There the idea was sparked to create a grants program, using provincial training money available for job seekers to do the work.
Called the Neighbourhood Home Improvement Program, the partnership links job-readiness funding from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities with the non-profit Threshold School of Building’s teaching expertise to help low-income homeowners.
The Foundation and the City of Hamilton are providing additional funding, as well as matching job seekers to the opportunity and overseeing the project applications review. Threshold provides the training: 26 weeks of paid onsite construction experience for 21 unemployed Hamiltonians as they complete the renovations CEO John Grant says the workers were “unbelievably gung-ho” about the program. “They are very proud and feel they are really giving back to the community.”
The program results?
- Windows installed, fences repaired, porches reinforced…by mid-September some 56 homeowners were assisted cost-free, often with repairs that improved safety.
- Job-ready individuals with new skills and experience who will be assisted to find sustainable work.
- Improved lower city properties, neighbourhood pride, and a group of very grateful participants.
Everyone associated with the program agrees it is an overall success. One homeowner called the construction crew an “army of hardhat angels that came to my rescue” while a crew member stated that aside from obtaining work experience, “being part of a positive change for Hamilton is what is most important.”