ABC7 in Your Neighborhood: Maywood

December 11, 2011 (MAYWOOD, Ill.)

The buzz of a circular saw may as well be the sound of music. It represents what community organizers hope will mark the beginning of a new era in their economically-challenged community.

"The idea is to create jobs in the process of rehabbing the houses," said Sarah Lira, executive director of Housing Helpers, Inc. "The first one's going to be on the market probably the first of the year. The price point is going to be in the 130 area."

"We want to target a part of the population that can afford a foreclosed home, but can't afford to fix it up," said Lira.

Housing Helpers, Inc. is a non-profit agency that is purchasing vacant houses in Maywood with funds from a community restoration loan through U.S. Bank. They have three homes in stock now. All are being gutted to the studs and rebuilt with an eye toward energy efficiency.

Housing Helpers turned to another Maywood agency called Vision of Restoration, to find local people to do the work. That agency runs a construction job training program.

"The goal of the program was to reach the chronically unemployed, youth who have aged out of group homes, ex-offenders, and minorities," said Lennel Grace, director of Vision of Restoration. "It just made good sense. We needed an opportunity to train the students. They were in the business of purchasing and rehabbing houses. So it was a perfect marriage."

Tinika Pittman wants to be an electrician and is proud of the hands-on training she is receiving, but she says the partnership is doing more than just giving her a second chance. It is giving others a reason to take a second look at Maywood.

"We're rebuilding the community, as a matter of fact - we're doing it one household at a time," said Pittman.

Housing Helpers, Inc. hopes to acquire and rehab as many as fifty houses next year. They want to target returning veterans as potential homebuyers, since Maywood is near the Hines VA Hospital.

Housing Helpers of Maywood website

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