Building opportunities in Chicago

MPS - Melvin BaileyIn 2002 Melvin Bailey started the Community Male Empowerment Project (CMEP) as a way to put ex-offenders and at-risk youth to work.

“I pull up on the corner and talk to anybody,” said Bailey.

Recently he has been rehabbing houses as part of Chicago’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program and recruiting local residents to do the work. CMEP is typical of the individuals and organizations that, through Mercy Portfolio Services and the City of Chicago, are engaged in acquiring and renovating hundreds of foreclosed, vacant properties throughout the city. In addition to providing high-quality, affordable housing and stabilizing neighborhoods affected by the foreclosure crisis, the program is putting many local people to work.

Mercy Portfolio Services, a subsidiary of Mercy Housing, is assisting communities across the United States in addressing the economic and housing crises through solutions such as foreclosure purchase, redevelopment, lease purchase options, asset management, land banking, education and resale at affordable prices. Our work creates new local jobs and stabilizes home values, creating affordable neighborhood housing.

When Bailey was growing up on Chicago’s West Side, he wasn’t all that different from the young people he sees on street corners today. Now he is striving to be a role model to show others that if they work hard, they can make a change in their lives and the lives of others. He hopes that the CMEP can prove that people are willing to work, if given a chance.

After first completing a trial program, the young program recruits are paired with a tradesman and begin an informal apprenticeship. Bailey has involved roofers, plumbers, painters and carpenters who love to teach others how to do what they do.

Bailey knows how important quality is when it comes to rehabbing houses, so he ensures that his employees recognize that with every beam and nail, “Our name is on the line.”

From construction budgets to paperwork, Bailey’s job occupies his time seven days a week. But at the end of the day he knows that through Mercy Portfolio Services and the City of Chicago, he is providing a much-needed service in the community.

“Wherever there are young men and women who need opportunities I’ll be there,” he said.