Rehabilitating foreclosed homes puts unemployed to work

MILWAUKEE -- Thousands of foreclosed homes around Milwaukee are creating hundreds of jobs. Not only are these foreclosed homes getting makeovers, but workers are gaining new skills.

Demario Turner and Gerald Williams were unemployed and struggling to find work last summer. That's when they saw an abandoned home undergo a rehabilitation. "They were doing a site in the neighborhood where I used to stay at," Turner said. "Just sitting on the porch, bored, and this is something I've been wanting to get into for awhile," Williams said.

After a little effort, they were hired on to help with similar projects. It's all part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program - a federally-funded project to fix up or tear down blighted homes. "We could have just demolished it, but it was our desire to have the greatest economic impact on this community, and saving this neighborhood," Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines said.

According to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, so far, 230 construction jobs have been created or retained, thanks to the $40 million federal grant. "We are doing much more than addressing individual homes. We are helping to restore neighborhood vitality," Mayor Barrett said.

For Turner and Williams, the city-wide project is a new lease on life. "We get the opportunity to train some people, get them jobs, get a property back on the tax base, which is a good situation for all involved," Milwaukee Alderman Willie Wade said.

Contractors are still hiring through the program, and city leaders say they will keep hiring as long as federal funds keep coming in. The best way to get one of these jobs is to simply ask the contractor on site, and follow up with your alderman.