In Wilmington, Delaware, the ‘Eastside Rising’ project is banking that helping people buy their own homes will curb violence.
Rev. Terrence Keeling, pastor of Central Baptist Church, is leading the charge. His church sits in the heart of the neighborhood.
“Owning a home is the end result of a process that brings less crime. Getting a job brings less crime. Getting the jobs puts you in a position to own a home,” said Keeling, who established the Eastside Rising Workforce Development Training Center.
Established a year-and-a-half ago, the training center is a free jobs program that operates out of Central Baptist Church. Gina Worthey runs it.
“This is about building out a career and a life that you want, not just getting a job. Because we want them to understand the difference between a job and a career,” said Worthey, director of Eastside Rising Training Center.
The center partners with construction union Local 55. Members teach the fundamentals of construction and the center teaches people how to write resumes and how to present themselves during interviews and on the job. The center also offers a certified nursing assistant program and classes in administrative fields and copper cable networking.
To date, Worthey said 30 people have graduated from the training center; 24 are currently working. One of her graduates is Kerry Davis who opted for the construction track.
“You willing to learn and you hungry, they’re going to teach you everything you need to know,” he said.
These days, Davis can be found on a construction site at 10th and Spruce Streets. He’s helping to build affordable housing for seniors. Gary Hutt helped Davis land the job. Hutt founded Clear, LLC, a contracting company that puts local people, many of whom have served time, to work.
“The relationship with Rev. Keeling was just a natural relationship because they have the same core values that we do,” Hutt said. “We understood that folks had criminal backgrounds and then we just decided as a company that that was not going to be an impediment for folks to get gainfully employed.”
Davis’ next job is to build the new “Bennett Street Townhouses,” which will be done some time next year. Another program through Eastside Rising gives those who work on the homes first dibs on owning those homes.
“I’m definitely trying to get into that,” Davis said.
Davis said he loves making an honest living and Worthey said people are noticing.
“His folks that he knew in his street days are coming to him like, ‘Kerry, what’s happened different for you?’ They see a difference in him,” Worthey said. “They realized that that’s a type of difference that I think I want for my life.”
It’s the type of different Keeling hopes spreads throughout Wilmington.