Learning, Working And A Fresh Start

It’s been a long time since Lawrence Taylor felt this excited about his future, but his new life is full of possibilities-and Cuyahoga Land Bank helped.
His old life was pretty dismal: 35-year-old Taylor has been in prison three times. The last stint, for possession of a controlled substance and possession of a firearm, put him there for eight and a half years. He’s spent nearly one-third of his life behind bars.Germaine_room
After his release, he entered a vocational-machine training program at Cuyahoga Community College, but he didn’t feel it would fulfill him. One day, a parole officer suggested he try to get into Career Development and Placement Strategies Inc. (CDPSI), a program that prepares ex-cons for careers in home renovation and entrepreneurship. Readers will remember our profile of CDPSI in this newsletter last month: participants get six months of paid, on-the-job training in skills ranging from time management to laying floors. The men are guided by general contractors and other professionals, and emerge from their internships ready for jobs in renovation-or, if they wish, to start their own businesses.
Cuyahoga Land Bank identifies three homes for each internship “class,” along with up to $45,000 in direct rehabilitation costs which it recovers when the properties are sold.
Listening to Lawrence Taylor, the program already is a roaring success. “I’m loving it,” says Taylor, who has worked on one house so far. His tasks were diverse: he helped demo and rebuild a bathroom, built a deck, laid wooden flooring in the living and dining rooms, hung drywall, installed windows and doors, and did a bit of concrete work. “It’s amazing to look at a house that’s basically nothing, then a few weeks later you’re seeing something you produced. And now it’s a nice house and some family will buy it and live there.”
Construction skills haven’t been Taylor’s only instruction. “People came in and taught us things like financial literacy and presenting ourselves well. The men are all fathers,” says Taylor, who lives with his fiance and two children, a boy and a girl, “so we learned about being a better parent. Being a better person. Those life skills were the first five weeks of the program.”
So what’s next for Taylor?
“Two more houses and 60 business days,” he says, “and then I’ll be ready to work in this field. I’m positive I’ll be ready-this program saved my life, it gave me skills. I’ll be ready.”

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