Mayor Richard Daley is intent on making Chicago a national leader on two of the toughest questions facing American cities today: how to go green, and how to reintegrate formerly incarcerated people into the community. Finding a way to address both issues at once, Chicago has used $16 million in Recovery Act funds to create more than 650 green jobs for formerly incarcerated people.
"I am proud that Chicago is one of the few cities to focus on the challenges of prison re-entry in a comprehensive way. It is impossible to overstate how important the federal economic stimulus program has been in helping Chicago kick start our economy, fix our infrastructure, better train our workers and get as many people back to work as we can over the short and long terms," Daley said at a news conference earlier this year at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.
In one Recovery Act–funded initiative, Chicago is partnering with Breaking Ground and the Safer Foundation on a $4.6 million, two-year program that provides 140 formerly incarcerated persons with job training and temporary jobs in a new building deconstruction work program. This program avoids the waste of traditional demolition by removing materials in city-owned buildings in an environmentally sound way that salvages the materials for re-use in the building industry.
After receiving thorough, expert training from Breaking Ground and the Safer Foundation, workers help dismantle city-owned buildings and garages that have been identified for removal. The city sells up to 80% of the removed materials, reinvesting the proceeds in the program. The initial funding from the City's stimulus money provided 70 clients with 24 hours of weekly training and work experience for one year, as well as an additional 10 hours a week of non-paid "soft skills" training, mentoring and support groups.
Chicago is also using more than $11 million in federal stimulus money to support a two-year Neighborhood Clean-Up Initiative and a community-based green jobs program that both target hard-to-employ workers, including the formerly incarcerated. Between the two of them, these programs will create more than 500 environmentally friendly jobs for workers who need the opportunity.
Chicago's vision in matching the work that most needs to be done with the people who most need the work is an inspiration to the entire country.