DC program turns vacant buildings into apartments

WASHINGTON - Tough economic times continue to burden Americans, especially when it comes to people losing their jobs and their homes...

Tough economic times continue to burden Americans, especially when it comes to people losing their jobs and their homes.

While balancing both campaigning and duties as head of state, President Barack Obama fights for his jobs bill, attempting to assuage worries that he has been inattentive to his political base in the black community. He insists that Congress pass it now and argues that this bill will help begin incremental change. Many say that he has not done enough.

But faced with slow change from federal bureaucrats, local governments are taking things into their own hands. The city of Washington has partnered with nonprofit organizations to create a new program that trades hard work on vacant buildings into homes for the homeless. If successful, the program would begin to reduce high unemployment rates, curb increased homelessness, and alleviate shriveling public assistance funds.

Named Sweat Equity, the program is centered in the poorest of part of the city, the southeast neighborhood just about five miles away from the White House. It takes homeless D.C. residents on temporary assistance and gives them jobs renovating vacant buildings owned by the city. Upon completion, participants can live in the buildings for two years rent-controlled. Though it is still a pilot program, officials with the Department of Homeland Securtiy have seen results, giving them hope it will become a permanent fixture for getting those on public assistance back into the workforce.

One of the participants, Neapolean Granderson, is a single father of three daughters. He lost his home in 2005 after his company downsized, but he could soon live in that same apartment once again. Coincidentally, he is helping to refurbish the building he lived in just before he lost his job. Granderson sees the program as a major success and is optimistic about the fresh start he’s been given as a result.

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