K-Town center will provide workforce development training and social supports to lead clients to homeownership
CHICAGO (August 6, 2022) Lawndale Christian Legal Center announced today the construction of a $17 million center where clients will live and receive job skills to transition to homeownership.
The K-Town residential workforce development center, 1441 S. Keeler Ave., will house 20 young men from North Lawndale who either have pending or completed cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The 20 housing units will feature a private bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette. There will be shared space for socializing and meetings, a commercial kitchen, dining area, a computer room and laundry room. Each resident will live at the center, which will be officially named at a later date, for one to three years.
“This is violence prevention in Chicago. With this $17 million investment in our neighborhood, we will create a new environment for young men to thrive and change the trajectory of their lives,” LCLC Executive Director Cliff Nellis said.
“If we want people to break the cycle of arrest and incarceration, we need to ensure that they are not leaving jail and returning to unsafe or unstable living environments. When we can provide housing and job training under one roof, that’s the key for lifelong change. And our clients’ children will have role models for the rest of their lives,” Nellis said.
Lawndale Christian Legal Center (LCLC) has provided legal representation and holistic social services to individuals, 24 and under, since 2010. LCLC links people to services for employment, housing, mental health, substance use, violence prevention, medical care and other social needs. LCLC works with clients who are from North Lawndale, and in 2021, it expanded its services to Austin, East Garfield Park and Little Village.
“Untangling from the criminal justice system is a difficult process for anyone, but it is more challenging for young adults who are homeless and unemployed,” said Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer, LCLC Vice President of Organizational Health and Management. “We know that public-safety solutions are in the community. Today, we take another step to put our young men in a position to succeed with new thoughts, words, actions and habits.”
Funding for the residential workforce development center comes from a $7.5 million State of Illinois grant; a $750,000 federal grant; a $475,000 Illinois Housing Development Authority grant; and private donations.
“As someone who experienced the loss of a parent and the foster care system at a young age, I know the importance of a safe and stable home,” said State Rep. Lakesia Collins. “This investment in our community will allow our young men to see what’s possible if they invest in themselves. They will have personal and professional goals that will drive them every day. I commend Lawndale Christian Legal Center for bringing this center to our community.”
In 2018, LCLC spent $30,000 to purchase the K-Town property, which has 24,590 square feet and was formerly a Catholic school. The buildout includes both a gut rehab of the existing structure and new construction that will add an entire wing of office and program space. The original masonry building is over 100 years old and needs significant rehab work such as plumbing, electrical and HVAC. An elevator will be added to the building.
Community partners on the project include Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, North Lawndale Employment Network, I AM ABLE Center for Family Development Inc. and North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council.
The center is expected to open in the spring of 2024. Construction will be overseen by Matthew McFarland, who will join LCLC this month as Vice President of Procedural Justice and Residential Workforce Development.
“It is an honor to oversee the rising of this center in Chicago. We often call these ‘second-chance programs,’ but for many of the young men who will live here, it will be the first time somebody has truly invested in them. It will be the first time they have their own bedroom. The first time they identify, understand and treat the trauma they have experienced. The first time they have clarity for a future,” said McFarland, a graduate of the Cook County Circuit Court Drug Court program. “I look forward to watching them walk that path, and I’ll always be ready to share insight from my journey to let them know that if they work with the program, they will never see a jail cell or need a lawyer again.”
LCLC will staff the center 24/7, and staff will consist of a program director, case manager, mental health therapist, restorative justice circle-keeper, outreach workers and floor supervisors.
The goal for all residents at the K-Town center is to transition to independent living, financial independence and healthy lifestyles. Participants will receive intensive social supports while completing hard-skill trainings and manufacturing/factory employment. If needed, participants can obtain a GED, a high school diploma and a driver’s license. After the residents demonstrate job-readiness, they will be referred to unions and general contractors for employment. The focus then shifts to teaching them skills regarding financial management, time management and job coaching.
After the residents are employed, they will eventually pay a portion of their rent and utilities. The final step is to assist them with the process to purchase a home, hopefully in North Lawndale.
Lawndale Christian Legal Center is the only holistic community-based legal practice in Chicago dedicated to the criminal defense of juveniles and emerging adults. LCLC provides services for individuals under 25 years old who are from North Lawndale, Austin, East Garfield Park and Little Village. Every LCLC client receives services with a family-centered approach and a dedicated case manager who coordinates a wraparound support team of legal, social, psychological and job-training professionals. LCLC also serves adults of any age through a partnership with The Bail Project, linking people released from jail to social services while their cases are pending. This on-the-ground program walks people through, and then away from, the criminal justice system.