Job Training to Break Cycle of Low Employment

Non profit helps young adults reach full potential

Danny Peterson | 10/4/2017, 10:20 a.m.
David Greenidge is working to provide job training and affordable housing to break a cycle of low employment that keeps ...
David Greenidge (left) runs a non-profit rooted in Portland’s African American community, providing training in construction as a way to break a cycle of low employment impacting young men and women from our community.

David Greenidge is working to break a cycle of low employment and housing that keeps too many young men and women from our community from reaching their full potential.

Several years ago, he and other concerned residents got together to survey why people couldn’t find jobs in the King neighborhood of northeast Portland. They found many members of the black community were out of work due to a prior criminal history.

Greenidge then went to work to break the criminal justice bonds. As a resident of Portland, he founded the National Urban Housing & Economic Community Development Corporation to help former offenders turn their lives around with job training and housing assistance.

According to a Racial and Ethnic Disparities Report from 2016, African-Americans are over represented in the Multnomah County jail system—they represent 5 percent of the overall population, but they represent 27 percent of its jail population. That disparity is impacting many people of color economically. A Poverty in Multnomah County report from 2014 showed black residents are over-represented in the county’s impoverished population—36 percent of the black population are in poverty, while only 14 percent of whites are in poverty. Furthermore, a study from 2001 to 2006 examining three states found that less than half of people returning to their community from prison had secured a job.

“I saw people needing help and I thought we could put together a nonprofit that could help them,” Greenidge said, describing the start to his specialized program about two years ago.

Greenidge said he discovered that one of the few employment opportunities for someone with a prior criminal record was in construction, as long as the prospective employee had been trained and screened beforehand. That’s where his organization comes in. NUHECDC trains people to develop construction skills, with a special emphasis in carpentry, and then connects their successful graduates with jobs.

Since the nonprofit program’s inception, job trainees have completed about 15-20 neighborhood construction projects like building fences, porches, and remodeling. Thirty-five graduates of the program have already been placed in permanent construction jobs.

The program also assists with interpersonal skills to make a job trainee’s transition back to the workforce a smooth one.

“When they come to the program we teach them life skills, soft skills that help them with issues of attitude, anger management, working as a team,” Greenidge said.

Greenidge hopes to help the disadvantaged with housing by breaking ground on a condominium construction project at 109th and East Burnside in about a month.

“We hope to bring 20 new units to the market in June or July of 2018, and they will be targeting individuals that are 80 percent or lower than the median family income for them to buy these homes,” Greenidge said.

He is also working on hiring a contractor who will be open to hiring program graduates.

For anyone interested in enrolling in the job training program or exploring its housing options, you can reach the organization by contacting Greenidge’s assistant, Fa’Lisha Brown at 971-302-6615.