Columbus — In 2012, BREAD called for an expansion in small business support to address stagnant unemployment in the City of Columbus. Research had shown that while nationwide small businesses accounted for two-thirds of all new jobs Columbus lagged behind, with small businesses only accounting for fifty percent of new jobs. BREAD researched programs that had been proven to increase small businesses and increase access to capital, particularly in underserved communities. BREAD presented a plan to expand small business incubators and a small business loan fund to City Council. Four City Councilmembers attended the Nehemiah Action with nearly 3,000 people in attendance in 2012 and committed to working with BREAD leaders. Shortly after the Nehemiah Action in 2013 with 3,268 people in attendance, Columbus City Council allocated $2.1 million to add four small business incubators in underserved communities and to create a dedicated small business loan fund to improve availability of much needed capital.
In October 2012, 285 BUILD leaders voted to focus on issues related to re-entry and recidivism. At the time, people were routinely being released by Lexington’s detention center into the community without an ID. Given that identification is necessary to get a job, find housing, open a bank account, and other basic tasks, this was a critical gap in the criminal justice system. BUILD discovered that the state of Indiana had developed the best program in the country for ensuring people were issued IDs before being released, and wanted the Fayette County Detention Center to follow the Indiana model. On April 16 2013, BUILD brought out 1,680 people to its Action Assembly. BUILD used that power to negotiate and win commitments from the Fayette County Circuit Court Clerk and the Director of the Fayette County Detention Center to develop a program to ensure inmates have a state-issued photo ID prior to their release. Out of 41 inmates who are in a designated re-entry program, 21 have received assistance in getting IDs prior to their release to date.
In 2013, HOPE successfully persuaded the Tampa City Council to tackle unemployment by passing the Tampa Criminal History Screening Practices Ordinance that removes from the city’s job application the question asking if an applicant has a criminal record, thereby reducing discrimination in the hiring process and opening doors to potential employment.
In 2010-2011, HOPE got Hillsborough Community College to develop nine Fast-Track Job Skill Certificate programs, which will give unemployed individuals an opportunity to acquire relevant job skills.
Charlottesville, VA- IMPACT catalyzed a restructuring of the community’s approach to homelessness at their 2013 Nehemiah Action. Charlottesville city manager and Albemarle County Executives agreed to convene a Roundtable to Reduce Homelessness, which would enable the entire community to better share information and leverage funding so that we might see an actual reduction in the number of homeless individuals and families in our area. In the time since this commitment was made, the roundtable has leveraged an additional $950,000 for service providers that otherwise would have been left on the table. We know of 16 families who have been prevented from becoming homeless as a direct result of the way this roundtable has changed our community.
In 2011, BUILD began to research re-entry and learned that 20,000 people in Lexington have a criminal background. It was determined that almost every problem related to re-entry branches from employment barriers, specifically, employers not willing to hiring ex-offenders. There were a number of organizations training and providing services to prepare ex-offenders for the job market, but the majority of ex-offenders were still not being hired due to their criminal history. Studies show that if ex-offenders do not obtain employment within 90 days of release, they are 500 times more likely to re-offend. BUILD also looked for best practices in other communities and found that many communities now conduct criminal background checks only for positions that require them by law or sensitive positions for which a background check is necessary. For example, in Minneapolis, nearly 60% of applicants with a potentially disqualifying record were hired in 2007, compared to 5.7% under the prior policy. As a result of BUILD’s 2012 Nehemiah Action, Lexington’s Mayor, his administration, and local employers agreed to attend an Ex-Offender Employment Workshop to deepen their understanding of fair, effective hiring practices. Following this workshop, Mayor Gray committed to promote hiring policies that help reduce recidivism by getting people with a criminal history back to work.