YouthBuild is a youth and community development program that simultaneously addresses core issues facing low-income communities: housing, education, employment, crime prevention, and leadership development. 1 Youth and young adults ages 16
to 24 work toward their General Equivalency Degree (GED) or high school diploma while learning job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income individuals. Strong emphasis is placed on leadership development and community
All YouthBuild students are economically disadvantaged and many have had experience with foster care, juvenile justice, welfare, and homelessness. In this full-time program, participants divide their time between the construction site and the
YouthBuild alternative school. Each YouthBuild program raises private and public funds to support itself. Primary support comes from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) through a dedicated federal line item. In Illinois, additional support comes from the
Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS).
The YouthBuild Model has become a very comprehensive approach. In most communities, YouthBuild serves as a variation of the following:
- An alternative school, in which young people attend a YouthBuild school full-time on alternate weeks, studying for their GEDs or high school diplomas. Classes generally allow one-on-one attention to students.
- A community service program, in which young people build housing for homeless and other low-income individuals, providing a valuable and visible commodity.
- A job training and pre-apprenticeship program, in which young people get close supervision and training in construction skills full-time on alternate weeks from qualified instructors.
- A leadership development and civic engagement program, in which young people share in the governance of their own program through an elected policy committee and participate actively in community affairs, learning the values and the
life-long commitment needed to be effective and ethical community leaders.
- A youth development program, in which young people participate in personal counseling, peer support groups, and life planning processes that assist them in healing from past hurts, overcoming negative habits and attitudes, and
pursuing achievable goals that will establish a productive life.
- A long-term mini-community, in which young people make new friends committed to a positive lifestyle, pursue cultural and recreational activities together, and can continue to participate for years through the YouthBuild Alumni
- A community development program, in which community-based organizations obtain the resources to tackle several key community issues at once, strengthening their capacity to build and manage housing for their residents, educate and
inspire their youth, prevent crime, create leadership for the future, and generally take responsibility for their neighborhoods.