published Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Felons included in Harriett Tubman housing site demolition Chattanooga job opportunity

Patrick Jackson, 39, is one of hundreds of East Chattanooga residents that could apply for 16 contractor positions when work begins on the demolition of the Harriet Tubman complex.
Patrick Jackson, 39, is one of hundreds of East Chattanooga residents that could apply for 16 contractor positions when work begins on the demolition of the Harriet Tubman complex.
Photo by Tim Barber.

Get a job

East Chattanooga residents in the 37406 ZIP code interested in working with Environmental Abatement must complete a three-day training program. Registration for the program starts Sept. 8. For more information call 643-6701 or e-mail oma@chattanooga.gov.

Patrick Jackson graduated cum laude from a Memphis community college, earned certifications in technology and videography, but believes that a 5-year-old drug conviction still prevents him from getting a job.

"My felony throws my resume out the door. I'm getting tired of that," said the 39-year old East Chattanooga resident. "Being a felon doesn't make you a bad person."

Hendersonville, Tenn.-based Environmental Abatement Inc. assures residents that a criminal history will not exclude them from employment when the company tears down the closed Harriett Tubman housing site sometime in September or October.

The construction company submitted its Workforce Projection Form to the city Wednesday. The city attorney's office is reviewing the papers, but preliminary documents stated the company will hire 13 to 16 people for five to six months at $18.75 an hour.

"Environmental Abatement has expressed that they will hire anyone, no matter their criminal history as long as they are eager to work, interview well and are forthcoming throughout the process," said Lacie Stone, the city's spokeswoman.

The company does a TBI background check on all applicants, Stone said. She said it's her understanding that a background check is company policy because it does several projects near schools and college campuses.

"Environmental Abatement is in the process of right now of looking at 37406 residents who graduated from the city's Environmental Training Program last year," Stone wrote in an email.

These are additional jobs that require specialized training, she said.

Environmental Abatement could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The number of unemployed people in Tennessee is the lowest since June 2008, but dozens of East Chattanooga residents including felons and people with clean records, say they can't find jobs.

Less than 30 percent of East Chattanooga residents age 18 and older graduated from high school and the crime rate is 233 percent above the nation's average, according to realtor.com.

"You're dumping felons on the street but there are no jobs," said Jackson.

His felony drug charge in 2009 was his second. His first came in the mid-1990s.

Jackson wants to work. He attends Chattanooga State Community College and completed a media technology internship with Brewer Media's Power 94 radio station this year, but he still can't get a job.

"Chattanooga is not felon-friendly," he said.

Other cities have city-funded programs that help felons find work.

They're just not enough jobs, said East Chattanooga resident Ronald Strickland.

Strickland has no criminal record and says he's been looking for a job for nine months.

At age 57, Strickland suspects the problem is his age.

"I even went to the chicken house and didn't get hired," he said.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 757-6431.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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