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Rebuilding Young Lives Through Construction [VIDEO]

At Construction Citizen, we’re always looking for examples of communities being made better by creative thinkers in the construction industry.  One program that's been touted as a shining example is called Our House.

During my recent trip to Washington DC, I had a chance to sit down with former Maryland State Senator Chris McCabe.  He’s helping get the word out about Our House and what they do for young men who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.  Many would describe them as “throwaways”, but McCabe says the people who run Our House want nothing more than to help juvenile offenders find their way back to a life of integrity by introducing them to the skilled trades.

Set on a 140 acre farm in Maryland, the 20-year-old program puts these young men in a situation many of them have never experienced: a structured day.  They learn carpentry skills for 8 hours each day.  At night, they attend classes as they prepare to get their GED’s.

“What we’re trying to do is teach them a skill but that’s not the end game,” McCabe said.  “The real end game is to get them to feel positive about themselves and their life chances.  Focusing narrowly on the construction field gives them an opportunity to use their hands and use their minds to create something.  That’s the therapy.”

The young men are also sent out to work on projects that make the community better.  Our House has donated about 40,000 man-hours to community projects as hundreds of juvenile offenders made their way through the program.

Once they leave, there is of course the distinct possibility that these young men won’t stay on the straight and narrow.  McCabe says that’s why the founder of Our House and others keep in touch with as many of them as they can.

“They still may get into trouble.  What we have found is that 3 and 5 years out is when the light bulb goes on and they say ‘you know what, this isn’t the path I want to be on’.”  McCabe says that’s when many of these young men will start applying the skills they learned at Our House.

I asked Senator McCabe to talk about Our House.  Hear what he had to say in the following  4 minute video.

Photo of trainee courtesy of Our House

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