PORTLAND, Ore. — Nonprofit organization Constructing Hope has increased the number of students it can serve through its pre-apprenticeship program as part of a makeover at its Northeast Portland facility.
The expansion is a big deal for Constructing Hope, which has been around in some form for nearly 30 years, providing opportunities for people who would otherwise probably not be given a chance a start learning construction skills.
"We target people who are missing in the construction industry, so we target African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and all low-income people," said Pat Daniels, executive director of Constructing Hope. "So I see it as an opportunity to truly change lives from being low-income to creating generational wealth."
The people who come to the facility at 405 Northeast Church Street for the 10-week program are 100% low income, predominantly people of color and most have been incarcerated at some point in their lives.
The new expansion means Constructing Hope’s mission just got bigger — nearly two times bigger, according to Daniels.
"This building is going to afford us the opportunity to move from classes of 25 to classes of 45, so it's going to increase the capacity of what we can do, training low-income people in this community," he said.
The nonprofit teaches a range of other work, life and financial skills in addition to construction, and it has a long list of success stories.
"It gave an opportunity when nobody else would, I mean a lot of people see somebody with a criminal background and they'll overlook them, but here they actually give you a chance," said Gerry Jones.
Jones was a good student and athlete growing up, but got into some trouble. A neighbor advised him to get into the Constructing Hope program over a decade ago, and now he owns his own electrical contracting business.
"(My neighbor) was a 2009 graduate, and so we were just hanging out and he said, 'I think this program would be good for you.' So I took a look at it, got in and it was the best thing that ever happened to me," he said.
Beyond the bigger classrooms, there are other new additions at the Constructing Hope facility, such as a set of beautiful murals inside and out, meant to inspire. The creations were led by artist Amaranta Celena Colindres, whose father was a painter in the construction trade.
"I fully support this facility and their mission, and so here behind me we have this awesome image that sort of shows the potential journey these students can take, the various industries that they can enter," she said, speaking in front of one of the new additions.
In the past five years, Constructing Hope has placed 326 graduates in new careers. With the expansion, the nonprofit’s goal is to go from 75 to 150 graduates per year over the next few years.