To create and sustain a broad-based national movement in support of policies and programs which enable young people to assume leadership in order to rebuild their communities and lead responsible lives. The YouthBuild organization works to unleash the positive energy of unemployed young adults to rebuild their communities and their own lives with a commitment to work, education, responsibility, and family.
When Dorothy Stoneman, a former schoolteacher in East Harlem, asked neighborhood teens how they would improve their community if they had support from adults, she heard that they would rebuild houses, take empty buildings away from drug dealers, and eliminate crime. With support from the Youth Action Program of the East Harlem Block Schools, the teens took action and began renovating the first YouthBuild building in 1978. YouthBuild USA was established in 1988 to serve as a support center for the expanding network of local YouthBuild organizations operated by independent, community-based organizations. Currently, there are 180 YouthBuild programs in forty-three states, Washington D.C., and the Virgin Islands.
YouthBuild is a comprehensive youth and community development program and an alternative school. Unemployed young people, ages 16 to 24, build affordable housing for homeless and low-income families in their own communities. They split their time between the construction site and the classroom, where they earn their GED or high school diploma, learn to be community leaders, and prepare for jobs or college. Alumni receive post-program counseling, and many graduates go on to construction-related jobs or college. The YouthBuild buildings are usually owned and managed by community-based organizations as permanent low-income housing.
In 1994, at the urging of fifteen YouthBuild sites, the national organization formed the YouthBuild Affiliated Network to allow affiliates to have a voice on issues such as program standards, use of technology, membership, fundraising, peer consultants, accreditation of affiliated members, benefits for members, and more. The Affiliated Network has expanded to include 107 affiliates.
The YouthBuild Coalition was founded in 1988 to persuade Congress to put $200 million into appropriations designated for the purpose of youth employment and training in building housing for the homeless and other low-income people. Since that time, federal legislation has been passed to fund YouthBuild programs, with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administering appropriations totaling $400.5 million between 1993 and 2002. The coalition has expanded to encompass a network of 750 organizations in forty-nine states.
YouthBuild students have produced more than 7,000 units of low-income housing since 1993. Nationwide, 89 percent of YouthBuild students enter the program without high school diplomas and 31 percent receive public assistance. In spite of these odds, 60 percent of students complete the program, and 86 percent of these graduates go on to college or jobs that pay an average of $7.61 per hour.
The YouthBuild USA Web site provides information about the program and its affiliates. It also includes a directory and a related interactive map to locate programs throughout the nation. Other online offerings include legislative updates, a newsletter, resources for teachers, alumni support, and a separate password-protected site for additional information and resources for staff and students.
The average cost per participant is about $20,000 a year, including stipends, which is less than many of the other options for unemployed young adults such as the military, prisons, boot camps, job corps, or many colleges. Each YouthBuild program secures its own funding, which is generally a mix of government and private support. Federal support for YouthBuild was established under the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992.
YouthBuild USA, the national support center, has received major private support from the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Prudential Foundation, the Lilly Endowment Inc., the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and Home Depot. It has received major public grants from HUD, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.