Career center opens to help low-income residents in
The opening of a career center in a south Yuma County public housing complex will help to remove the stigma that low-income residents don't want to help themselves, county Supervisor Tony Reyes said on Wednesday.
"It's nice to see people who want to better themselves finally have the opportunity to do so," Reyes said. "I think it's great that people in public housing get to have a place like this."
Reyes, along with several public housing officials, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly built Resident Career Training Center at the 300-resident Valley Vista Apartments in Somerton.
The center, which has been three years in the making, was built using a $100,000 Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), through the Arizona Housing Commission.
While open to the public, the career center is mainly intended to help residents of the 84-unit apartment complex learn the job skills necessary to earn higher wages and become more self-sufficient, and thus eventually be able to leave public housing.
"We will be offering GED classes, English as a second language classes (ESL), citizenship classes - not to mention any other training we can get other agencies to provide out there," said Teresa Sanchez, resident coordinator for the county housing department. "The goal is to help them move from not having the proper qualifications for employment to becoming homeowners."
The Yuma County Housing Department Resident Central Advisory Council will operate the center with the help of the housing department.
The county operates 159 public housing units, including Valley Vista, which is the largest, and subsidizes another 400 rentals.
The county's public housing program is solely funded through federal money and receives no revenues from the county's general fund.
The career center was originally supposed to be located in a remodeled apartment at the Vista complex, Sanchez said, but the unit that was supposed to house it had to be torn down.
"The structure was too weak, so we had to tear it down and start over from scratch," Sanchez said. "We just finished the building."
While finished, the center is still practically unfurnished - with only six computers and tables - and Sanchez is hoping businesses and other private agencies will lend a hand by donating furniture and other equipment.
"We have a wish list of things, and they don't have to be new," Sanchez said. "We need things such as bulletin boards and projectors, basically stuff for classroom-type settings."