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Building Up By Tearing Down: Fighting Blight, Unemployment in Philadelphia

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A new nonprofit organization is working to tackle blight in Philadelphia neighborhoods by helping former prison inmates, the environment, and troubled neighborhoods.

"We're teaching citizens who are returning from incarceration to deconstruct abandoned or vacant housing," says Greg Trainor, who started Philadelphia Community Corps ("PCC") a few months ago.

The fledgling agency puts "returning citizens" to work, removing wood flooring, cabinets, and other fixtures for possible sale or reuse.

"If we do it correctly, we can salvage 90 percent of these materials," Trainor notes, "which is good for the environment because we'll have to use less new materials."

Wendy Harper lives near West Chew Street in West Oak Lane, near PCC's first work site.  A thief broke into her home recently, but PCC is giving her a new security door and windows salvaged from abandoned homes.

"(They are) in very good condition," she said today.  "I'm very pleased to be able to get it.  I am thankful."

Carlo Payne is a father of three who once lived a life of petty crime.   He was referred to PCC through the Mural Arts Program, and now gets up every morning with pride, happy to have a job after months of trying other places.

"A beautiful feeling," says Payne, "to being able to help people and also be able to get a paycheck to feed my family."

PCC is working to raise money to pay for tools, a truck, and to hire more workers.  The group has ten days left in its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

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