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Construction Skills Help Kentuckians in Recovery Build New Lives

A new program in Hazard, Ky., will offers paid on-the-job training in housing construction to people in recovery from substance abuse. (@reinasierra/Twenty20)
A new program in Hazard, Ky., will offers paid on-the-job training in housing construction to people in recovery from substance abuse. (@reinasierra/Twenty20)
March 4, 2019

HAZARD, Ky. — A new job training program in Eastern Kentucky will teach people in recovery from substance abuse how to build homes.

The Housing Development Alliance, a non-profit organization in Hazard, has partnered with Perry County drug court and Hickory Hill Recovery Center to provide on-the-job construction training for men and women in recovery. They'll be paid for their labor through grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Scott McReynolds, executive director of the Housing Development Alliance, said the idea came to him after having volunteers in recovery help out with carpentry. He noticed the process of building a house was a meaningful experience for them.

"After the training, when they're out looking for a full-time job, they'll be able to use us as a job reference,” McReynolds said. “And we can say to the future employer, 'This person showed up on time every day, they passed all their drug tests. They are ready for you to take a chance on them.’”

He said the grant of more than $800,000 will be used to pay trainees for their labor. Over three years, a small group of participants will build 15 new homes for moderate-income families in the region.

One of the biggest hurdles for Kentuckians in recovery is the inability to find a job. McReynolds pointed out that people in the home-building program will have hard skills they can use to find long-term employment.

"I mean obviously there is some serious skill development. If they don't already know a lot about construction, they'll learn,” he said. “We're partnering with the community college, so they will actually be attending classes one day a week and receiving college credit and then, some certificates - you know like a residential roofer's certificate."

McReynolds said home building can boost the regional economy, especially in Eastern Kentucky where there's a need for affordable housing. The homes built through the program will be sold, with proceeds going back into the program to train more people in recovery.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY