Ladies literally bring down the house
BENTON HARBOR — The crew swinging sledge hammers to deconstruct a blighted house at 364 Summit St. might not be who you’d expect under their hardhats.
They are seven low-income women who are taking part in the project to gain work experience and learn construction skills.
While beautifying the neighborhood, and taking apart the house piece by piece, they are salvaging materials that would have ended up in a landfill had the house been removed by traditional means.
The Kinexus project is funded through a grant from the Michigan Department of Human Services, the Michigan Land Bank and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).
The trio announced in February the release of $15 million in blight elimination funding.
Kinexus’ portion is $740,000, which will be used to deconstruct 15 houses and demolish four commercial structures throughout Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.
Of the 34 grant recipients throughout the state, Kinexus is the only organization providing training by adding a deconstruction and salvage phase to its strategy to demolish and remove blighted property.
The organization expects to train a minimum of 28 people in cohorts of about seven. The training period for each cohort is between three and four months.
In the first month, applicants undergo an intensive screening process in which they must attend an information session, pass a drug test and successfully complete several trainings including OSHA-10, Unlocking Your True Potential, and a lead safety and awareness course.
After successful completion of month one, the next two months are spent on worksites. In the fourth month, trainees work closely with a Michigan Works talent development specialist to find suitable employment using their new-found employability skills and work experience.
Kinexus is a non-profit organization that invests $11 million each year connecting people, investments and organizations in southwest Michigan with strategies and services.