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PHA Residents Can Earn Job Credentials Working on Taft Redevelopment Project

Hooker-DeJong, Inc. via Peoria Housing Authority

Peoria Housing Authority residents will have a chance to work on the upcoming Taft Homes redevelopment project, and gain new job skills at the same time.The Peoria Housing Authority Board has approved an agreement with Illinois Central College to send at least two groups through jobs training to earn their credentials to participate in the project before demolition of the existing structure begins late next spring.

It's part of U.S. Housing and Urban Development's Section 3 program that requires work on the project to go to public housing and low-income residents to the greatest extent possible.

Pastor Marvin Hightower, president of the Peoria NAACP, said the program may serve as a "game-changer" for Peoria and the Black community.

"I see it as more than a project. I see it as something that can serve as a spring board for self-sustainability," said Hightower, noting the program may provide the assistance needed to help people move out of public housing.

PHA Commissioner Renee Andrews agreed it's a great opportunity.

"This is amazing. What a great way not just to get buy-in, but ownership from our families, and also to provide them with knowledge and skills," Andrews said. "Who knows where it can take them?"

Workers with a GED or high school diploma will earn a $10-an-hour stipend for 40 hours per week while enrolled in the ICC program. Those without those credentials can instead learn the needed skills through local trade unions, allowing them to participate in the Taft Homes redevelopment project.

PHA Chairman Carl Cannon, who also serves as chairman for ICC's board of trustees, said the trade unions' involvement is an important component to this plan.

"Those individuals who don't have a high school diploma, and who don't have a GED--giving them some kind of lane that can help," he said. "It's a start to a future."

"We have been working on various aspects of it, to try to ensure that we can hopefully help the most individuals that we have," said PHA Executive Director Jackie Newman.

However, Newman said she wanted to temper expectations, noting that not everyone will be able to work on the Taft project due to Section 3's specific guidelines.

"What we are doing is putting our best effort and best foot forward to try to help as many individuals as we can," she said.

Newman said information on the initiative recently was mailed out to Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and public housing residents.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.