At first glance, the house under construction at 2221 S. 18th St. seems like any other new home rising from the ground, but it’s actually the first of its kind. The house, about 65 percent complete, is the first home to be built by participants of the Adult Build program at Milwaukee Christian Center.
The program, run by the Milwaukee Christian Center’s Neighborhood Improvement Project, 1223 S. 23rd St. in Clarke Square, is one of two in the county; the other is located at the Northcott Neighborhood House on the north side. It gives participants the opportunity to learn, hands on, the craft of building a house.
“Of the five or six participants per group, some have no experience, while others have some experience at a certain task, so we partner them up,” said Adult Build Program Manager Tim Twaddle. The second of these crews is now working on prepping the home for insulation.
Each participant takes part in an extensive 16-week job-training program, which teaches construction skills such as math, roofing and carpentry, along with soft skills such as resume writing and the importance of showing up for work every day.
To participate in the program you must be a Milwaukee resident, at least 24 years old, legally eligible to work in the U.S, and have an interest in construction, according to Twaddle.
Steven Anderson, 33, now in his third month on the job, credits the Adult Built program with helping save his home. “I’ve been looking for a job the last two years while working odds and ends; I was about to lose my home,” said Anderson as he plugs air holes with caulk in the upper floor of the home. Anderson spent 15 years working blacktops before the economy went bad, and more recently, studied civil engineering at UW-Milwaukee, but couldn’t afford to continue. “I thank the Lord for this program,” Anderson said.
Lonnie Leeks, describes the program as “awesome.” “I’ve been waiting for 10 years to get back in this trade,” Leeks said. He learned about the program while job hunting on the Internet. Once he completes the program he intends to remain in the trade, he said.
Twaddle described the program as a jumping off point for participants. “We can’t make someone a carpenter in four months, but the skills they learn can be generalized to trades or other types of employment,” Twaddle said. The program keeps a list of job openings and works with participants to find jobs.
“They helped with my resume, [and] taken us to job fairs; they try to help us find employment but it’s still tough out there,” Anderson said. According to site supervisor Bob Dziewionzkoski, a worker from the current group was recently hired full-time by a dry-wall company.
Dziewionzkoski doesn’t know for sure when the house will be finished, but said that the plumbing, electrical and heating systems are already set. “Once the drywall begins, the process will move much faster; whether we have another crew though will depend on funding,” Dziewionzkoski said.
When the house is completed, it will go on the market, according to Aaron Grant of the Milwaukee Christian Center’s Neighborhood Improvement Project (NIP). All the money from the sale of the home will be reinvested in the Adult Build program, which has local and federal support for one year. Although the housing market is challenging, Grant said, the homes Adult Build constructs are energy efficient and built for families, which should make them easier to sell.