Details, a division of Humanim Inc., has been deconstructing homes for nearly two years in the private sector but is beginning to pursue municipal contracts.
The nonprofit, which provides jobs to Baltimore residents who have barriers to finding work, such as previous incarceration or substance abuse, was awarded it’s first municipal contract in March. The $690,000 agreement with Baltimore calls for the organization to deconstruct 50 homes through the Vacants to Values initiative. Demolition of the first 35 homes in the 2300-2400 block of East Eager Street are on track to begin in July.
“We’re not going to get rich on this project, but the opportunity to make it self-sustaining and be able to employ so many individuals would be huge,” said Jeff Carroll, director of Details.
The organization deconstructs homes and salvages materials, such as brick and wood beams, for reuse. Typically this process is attractive in the private sector because of tax credits available to the home’s owners. The homes are usually completely pulled down, although some projects only involve gutting the interior of a house prior to restoration. Details is on pace to deconstruct between 65 and 70 homes this year.
Using Details benefits the city because the company hires residents who are chronically unemployed and reusing the materials is more environmentally friendly than demolishing a building. To make the city contract viable the company his hoping to make about 2 to 3 percentage points on the project.
“We’re really careful, it’s a very strategic, surgical deconstructions, so the image of demolition or tearing down something is completely opposite of what actually happens with our process,” said Cindy Plavier-Truitt, chief development officer at Humanim Inc
Carroll said, to his knowledge, the contract is the first of its kind with a municipality. He said the organization wants to make this first attempt work because it may open doors to more business with Baltimore and other cities. Since Vacants to Values was launched a few years ago there have been 923 home demolitions citywide.
“Most of the construction industry is volatile, and when you’re in the private sector things slow down a lot in the dead of winter, you get hiccups, sometimes in the spring you get a lot of rain, this would be fairly predictable steady work,” he said.
Details, which currently employs 40 people, plans to hire 25 more city residents to complete the contract. The plan is to form two crews with one of the team deconstructing homes in the private sector while the other will work on structures in the city contract. The goal is to land enough municipal contracts to keep the new hires on staff permanently.
Since Details started deconstructing homes they’ve hired about 100 residents. Carroll said there’s a fairly high turnover rate because once employees pick up skills they move onto other work. He said that so far, of the people they’ve hired, only three have been re-incarcerated.
“We want to see [employees] establish a good, solid work record of course on this project and beyond, and leverage their experience to move into jobs that have more of a future for them,” Carroll said.