LAURINBURG — A unique Habitat for Humanity of Scotland County project on East Vance Street is the site of a rehabilitation process that goes two ways.
Though it has constructed more than 40 Scotland County homes from scratch, with this project Habitat has made its first foray into renovating an existing dwelling. The single-story home at 109 E. Vance St. was turned over to Habitat by the city and county after it was foreclosed upon for delinquent taxes. Initially constructed in 1952, the house was last inhabited about 15 years ago.
“It’s kind of a neighborhood revitalization type of thing: trying to partner with the city and the county, take over these homes that are vacant and run down, rehab them, and get families in them,” said Habitat Executive Director Susan Covington.
With the old interior gutted and a crumbling wooden façade giving way to new insulation and siding, new volunteers are still welcome on the project. But the bulk of the work toward the house’s facelift has come from a group of local youth who are at the same time putting in place the building blocks of their own lives.
Project GreenBuild, the product of a $1.1 million U.S. Department of Labor YouthBuild grant to the Lumber River Council of Governments last year, provides the construction training and experience required by several professional certifications for youth aged 16-24 who have dropped out of high school or enrolled in an alternative school.
The program goal is to see 70 students from Laurinburg and Maxton earn a high school diploma or GED and enroll in secondary education or find sustainable employment by the end of the grant’s three-year term. Youth receive compensation for the 260 hours of work experience integral to the program.
Tarrance Wall, 20, enrolled in the Richmond Community College GED program after leaving traditional high school due to frequent moves. He applied for the GreenBuild program to acquire a more diverse skillset than a GED alone would teach.
“It was a way to better educate myself over here and a chance to make money also,” said Wall. “You get more out of this than you would through a GED alone: more credentials and more education construction-wise.”
In addition to a diploma and history of work experience, GreenBuild participants also leave the program with American Red Cross first aid and CPR certifications, the WorkKeys certificate required by many local industries, core training from the National Center for Construction Education and Research, and having completed the OSHA 10-hour course.
For Shaw Academy student Bridget Nicholson, 17, everything about the program from driving nails on up has been a learning experience — one she plans to continue.
“I’m getting better at it; I feel accomplished,” she said, adding that upon graduation she wants to give herself options by learning more than one trade.
“If this doesn’t work for me, I want to be a nurse. If nursing doesn’t work for me, I want to be into the hair and nails cosmetology. I can always have something to fall back on.”
The model of rehabilitating existing homes rather than building new ones represents a paradigm shift for Habitat, with a number of other potential projects identified. On average, renovation projects should cost $20,000 to $30,000 less than the $80,000 cost of a new home.
Renovation of abandoned homes also saves local governments from the cost of demolition and disposal, as well as preserving the purpose of land that may otherwise be useless.
“The pieces of property that a lot of these homes are on, the property is so small you can’t build on them,” Covington said. “Once they’re torn down the property is almost worthless.”
Expenses for the Vance Street home, which is on track for completion in November, are expected to be on par with a new Habitat house due to its size and the extent of its deterioration. The home’s new inhabitant will not be selected until closer to its completion date.
For information about volunteering on a Habitat for Humanity construction site, call 910-276-3337.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.