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At NHDA we love to talk about the profound positive impact a quality affordable home can make in the life of a homeowner. But we often overlook the difference a good job can make in the life of the home builders and laborers.
NHDA member Prairie Gold Homes recognized this opportunity and has created an innovative program to train men transitioning out of the Department of Corrections to learn the home building trade while actually building affordable houses for Nebraskans. Prairie Gold Homes has 15 men currently involved in their program and will complete three projects this year, culminating with a two-unit town home in Firth, Nebraska that will be completed in time for a few local retirees to move in by Christmas.
Prairie Gold Homes, which was founded in 2001 as Bar None Housing, works exclusively with incarcerated men in the Department of Corrections Community Level A or B programs. These men are preparing to transition out of prison and back into society and are all anxious to find productive and sustainable work.
Mark Wentz, Prairie Gold Homes' Executive Director, says “our main product is the people, the houses are a byproduct.” The statistics support this claim. Last year, 50 men went through Prairie Gold Homes' home builder training program and 47 are currently working in the construction field. As Wentz’s points out, “these jobs start at $13 to $14 an hour and 40 hours a week. That beats fast food where you are making minimum wage 20 hours a week.”
These opportunities are making a big difference in participants’ lives. Over the last two years, the program has graduated 100 participants, none of whom have returned to prison. Over the last five years, the recidivism rate rises to 5 percent. That compares to the statewide, 3-year recidivism rate, which was reported by a Pew Center report to be 25.8 percent. This is extremely helpful at a time when the Nebraska prison system is under incredible stress from overcrowding.
Because they are a job training program and a non-profit builder, Prairie Gold Homes is able to build low cost but high quality homes. This year, Prairie Gold Homes completed three projects. In addition to Firth, they built homes in Greenwood and McCook, Nebraska.
NHDA is proud to support our nonprofit members who are doing great work to strengthen our communities, lift up our residents, and enrich us all.
If you want to support Prairie Gold Homes, they are currently participating in the Newman’s Own Foundation $500K Holiday Challenge. To contribute, visit - https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/prairie-gold-homes-inc1