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A Promising Project: Training Milwaukee Workers While Demolishing Boarded Up Properties

Bob Bach

The City of Milwaukee has hired Northcott Neighborhood House to train young people for demolition jobs.
19-year-old Anthony Lampley calls the garage demolition program “a blessing.” “They give us all this training. It’s free,” Lampley says. “We take pride in what we are doing. We make sure we do it safe and we do it fast.”

Participants are learning how to demolish boarded up garages, mostly by hand; while earning minimum wage. The workers are also trained how to safely handle hazardous materials such as asbestos, commonly uncovered when demolishing boarded up structures, as well as how to operate a fork lift.

Program supervisor Steve Teasley says that the skills learned here can be used any construction site. These workers “are all qualified,” he says.

A work crew uses hand tools to dismantle a roof that sits atop a flattened garage.

One young worker, Latoshia Stewart, says she is learning powerful lessons like how to work with others and serve the community.

Debris from the dismantled garages are set aside for re-use or sold for scrap.

But, Justin Dall'Osto of WasteCap Resource Solutions says that recycling is just one attribute of the demolition program.

"Community members see these workers out on-site, they are seeing jobs being created, materials being harvested,” Dall'Osto says. “We are respecting ourselves, respecting our community and respecting the environment.”

Ron Roberts, of the Department of Neighborhood Services, says Milwaukee hopes to expand the garage demolish project into one where workers disassemble ruined houses by hand.

“Part of the problem is deconstructing a home, currently, is almost twice the cost of mechanical demolition,” Roberts says. “So, if we can train people and bring down the cost, we can make deconstruction a reality.”

Michelle was named WUWM's digital manager in August of 2021.
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