The People's Tribune

Homes To Be Built Inside Bowling Green Prison

A new initiative calls for houses to be built inside the Northeast Correctional Center at Bowling Green and sold throughout the area.

The Aspire Partnership Prison Homes Program, which has been in the works for several years, is an effort of the not-for-profit North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC) and the Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis Joint Apprentice Program.

Plans were announced during the Tri-State Housing Summit hosted by NECAC and its regional partners June 8 in Quincy, Ill. More than 100 business people, government representatives, residents and other stakeholders heard about housing initiatives taking place in the three states.

Ron Tierney, coordinator of the Carpenters’ Joint Apprentice Program, said the union and NECAC are working with the Missouri Department of Corrections to begin Aspire.

“We’re in the infancy stage, but hopefully very soon we’ll start rolling these (homes) out of the correctional facility,” Tierney said.

The completed houses would be a little over 500 square feet and would be available for purchase for around $45,000. A foundation, utility hookups and transportation would be an additional cost.

The Carpenters Union and its apprentices would oversee construction, expected to take a little more than a month each. NECAC would offer homeownership classes to buyers and oversee sales. The finished homes would be trucked to the purchaser’s site. NECAC developed Aspire based upon a similar program in South Dakota. Details are still being worked out and a timeline for the start of construction has not been set.

“This program will create a circle of success,” said NECAC Deputy Director for Housing Development Programs Carla Potts. “People will be able to buy quality homes for a low price, inmates will learn a skill that will help them get a job once they’re out of prison and Carpenters Union apprentices will develop their abilities.”

Iowa also is interested in Aspire. Dan Clark, director of the state’s prison industries, said Iowa hopes to fund the program at the correctional facility in Newton. Homes there would be 1,000 to 1,200 square feet. Funding will be considered by state lawmakers next year “There’s a severe need for workforce housing,” Clark said.

Other partners in the summit were the Two Rivers Regional Council of Quincy and the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission of Burlington. NECAC organized the first summit in 2005.

Keynote speaker Elizabeth Hollins, senior director of the Midwest Region for NeighborWorks America, praised regional partnerships that have helped create more housing opportunities.

“Partnership, innovation, adaptability, impact – these words describe NECAC, the Tri-State partnership and NeighborWorks America,” Hollins said. “Together, we will continue to make a difference every day in the lives of the people and the communities we serve across the Tri-State Region, and across the country. Thank you for all that you do as we continue to create a more vibrant and prosperous future for our communities.”

Bob Reeder of Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) announced the not-for-profit organization is developing a financing mechanism for the Healthy Homes Program, which would pay for removal of contaminants such as asbestos and lead paint from older housing.Reeder said that since 2015, Rural LISC has funded $1.3 million of such work at 88 homes, and is looking to expand by seeking more regional partners. NECAC administered a similar program several years ago.

“Our mission and our commitment is to make sure that everyone in the communities we serve has access to safe housing,” Reeder said.

Other speakers were Jeremy Oshmer of Two Rivers; NECAC President and Chief Executive Officer Don Patrick; Sara Hecox of the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission; NECAC Homeownership Programs Director Alicia Lopez; Maureen Kahn, president and chief executive officer of Blessing Health System in Quincy; and City of Quincy Planning and Development Director Chuck Bevelheimer. Opening remarks were given by former Quincy Mayor Chuck Scholz, a member of the Tri-State Development Summit steering committee. Housing is a task force of the larger group.

“We may not always see it or realize it, but our work does wonders in people’s lives,” Patrick said. “For that reason, we cannot abandon the task we’ve started. We have an obligation to our neighbors and friends throughout the region to leave the Tri-States better for the generations to come. The partners of the Tri-State Housing Summit are already proven winners. By building upon our successes, we can create even better neighborhoods and communities.”

Kahn said the connection between housing and health is obvious, and that hospitals are very interested in programs that can promote healthier living.

We take this very seriously and we always looking at what we can do,” she said. “Housing is a great area for public-private partnerships.”

Scholz praised the housing task force and the spotlight it has put on regional cooperation in improving housing quality.

“Thanks to all of you for making more housing opportunities available in the Tri-State area,” he said.

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