Phoenix Rising is a community development program that simultaneously addresses core issues facing low-income communities in Ocala: employment, education, housing, crime prevention, and leadership development. In the Phoenix Rising program low-income young adults ages 18 - 21 work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, learn job skills, leadership and life skills that will prepare them for employment or college, and serve their communities by building affordable housing, and transform their own lives and roles in society. This program has been privately funded through Workforce, the City of Ocala, Marion County Habitat for Humanity and the Ocala Police Department, with cash and in-kind contributions from many community partners.
The Ocala Police Department, City of Ocala, Habitat for Humanity, Workforce Connection, Henkels and McCoy, Zion United Methodist Church and other community partners have joined together to provide training for young adults, and build a home for a deserving family. The first goal of the program is to train the youth in both leadership and life skills, and to have them either employed or attending post-secondary classes at the end of the 15-16 week program. This also addresses crime prevention by taking these young adults off of the streets and showing them there are opportunities for them. The second goal is to build a house for a deserving family.
Our first build began February 14, 2011 and was completed June 2, 2011, with eleven participants graduating. Over half of the participants are now employed and several have begun classes at CTAE and Santa Fe College. Those who have not yet found employment or registered for college are continuing to work with Workforce. In addition, a low income family was able to move into a new home.
Our second build started September 26th, with 20 participants and ended January 12, 2012, with 16 participants graduating, eleven of which are employed and two are enrolled in post-secondary education classes. With this build, there was more emphasis on leadership and life skills, and more certificate programs were offered to the participants in areas of high employability in Marion County. The participants went through a ROPES course on 9/24/11 in order to foster “team work” among the participants. Each participant was required to volunteer 12 hours of their time to revitalization projects in the City during the 15 week period. The third build started March 12, 2012, with 15 participants and will conclude on June 28, 2012.
In addition to the training and employment of the young adults, a by-product of the project is two families now have a home and two houses have now been put back on the tax rolls of the City, rather than vacant lots that generated no tax income. Phoenix Rising has also increased collaboration with City of Ocala, Ocala Police Department, local businesses and community partners.
After two groups, over 92.5% (25 of 27) of those completing the program are employed or attending post-secondary education classes. Those that are not yet employed continue to work with Workforce, and will until they are employed.