Building Homes, Changing Lives

CORCAN partners with Habitat for Humanity to provide offenders with meaningful learning experiences

In today’s economy finding a job is tough on anyone. For most offenders, the search for work upon release can be overwhelming. CORCAN’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity gives offenders a chance to learn valuable job skills that can help them find meaningful work once they return to the community.

Just ask twenty-nine-year old Brian. Currently serving a six year sentence, his future looks a little brighter. Brian took part in a Habitat for Humanity build in Kingston, Ontario. It was arranged as a partnership between CORCAN, Pittsburgh Institution, St. Lawrence College and Habitat for Humanity. Two families benefited from the homes built.

"After spending seven months working on the project and meeting the two families that will be living in the houses, I have feelings of great satisfaction and pride of having participated in a very worthwhile and beneficial cause," he says. "Because of this project, I realize that I have something positive to contribute to society."

And that’s not all he’s gained. As a result of working on this project, Brian has gone from having limited experience with the construction industry to being employable upon his release. He now has knowledge and experience in carpentry, plumbing, electrical, framing, roofing, and blue print reading.

The Habitat project is a chance to turn the community into a classroom for offenders. It takes a lot of work to make it happen. Of the 12 offenders who started the project, seven have been granted parole. Six of those are employed in the community. The remaining five offenders are still incarcerated.

Scott Coombs is a project officer with CORCAN in CSC’s Employment and Employability program. He wants people in the community to understand the importance of these partnerships to offenders. "The results of the partnership run even deeper than skills development for offenders," he says. "It’s all about self-esteem." He tells the story of one particular offender. The offender wasn’t Scott’s first choice to work on the project, but he decided to give him a chance. He was middle aged and had no work experience. During the first few days of the project, he would stand at the back – quiet and timid, but by the end of the project, he was on the roof with a big smile on his face. Scott could tell he was proud of what he had learned and that he felt fantastic about himself. "That’s what makes the job worthwhile," he says. "To hear someone say ‘thanks for taking a chance on me'. That’s worth just as much as getting paid. The more we can help them, the better off they’ll be."

For most offenders, simply getting and keeping a job is considered a success. For Brian though, working to improve the lives of others and becoming a positive and productive member of society is what encourages him to continue along this path. Partnerships that provide an opportunity for offenders to learn skills and get employed help them to learn how to succeed. They gain confidence and are better prepared for when they return to the community. That means success for not just the offender, but for the economy and all of society.

Modular home under construction.

Modular home under construction