Affordable-housing funds could also help reduce recidivism in Delaware

Jarell Hawkins talks about the success he’s found as a former inmate learning how to renovate homes with 2 Fish Home Renovations. The company was one of six to get part of $1 million in state funding to do more housing work. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Jarell Hawkins talks about the success he’s found as a former inmate learning how to renovate homes with 2 Fish Home Renovations. The company was one of six to get part of $1 million in state funding to do more housing work. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Jarell Hawkins is one of 20 formerly incarcerated people hired by 2 Fish Home Renovations.

Along with Delaware Technical and Community College, 2 Fish offers a five-week construction training course behind bars to give prisoners a better chance at success when they’re released.

“I wanted to make a change and do something different, move forward and be positive,” Hawkins said. “I knew it was something I wanted to do.”

The 2 Fish name is based on the proverb, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” The workers the company hires develop skills that can help them throughout their working career.

“What we’re trying to do is teach them to fish,” said 2 Fish founder Keith Smith. “In our short three years of operation, we’ve renovated 10 middle-income houses, we’ve hired 28 folks coming out of the Delaware correctional system.”

2 Fish is one of six groups that will share $1 million from the state’s Housing Development Fund, Gov. John Carney announced in Claymont Wednesday morning. The money is designed to provide affordable housing to moderate-, low- and very-low-income families.

“To provide this resource for our ex-offenders returning to communities is just incredibly important,” Carney said. “It’s doing probably the most important part of the reentry process, which is providing a training opportunity for the ex-offenders.”

This year’s funding is part of $14.5 million the Delaware State Housing Authority has spent in the last three years to repair dilapidated homes and subsidize homes for low-income residents. Housing Authority Director Anas Ben Addi said that money has improved more than 325 homes statewide.

“With this funding, at least two dozen Delaware families will have the opportunity to become homeowners in communities throughout our state,” he said.

2 Fish will get $200,000 to acquire and rehab four homes in the Overlook Colony neighborhood in Claymont. In Dover, the Milford Housing Development Corp. will also get $200,000, to build four new homes in the Harmony Hill neighborhood. Sussex County Habitat for Humanity will get $140,000 to build four homes in Ellendale and another $105,000 to build three new homes in Milton.

Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity is getting $100,000 to build a pair of homes in Milford. The Diamond State Community Land Trust will receive $120,000 to build four new homes in Seaford. And Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County will get $135,000 to renovate three townhouses in Wilmington.

Most of the projects will target home buyers with income between 50% and 80% of the average median income in the communities. Wilmington has the lowest median income at $38,979. Dover has the highest, at $57,647.

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