Juvenile offenders in Smith County earn vocational experience while repairing PATH homes

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Updated: Sep. 23, 2020 at 4:33 PM CDT
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SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Juvenile offenders at Smith County Juvenile Services (SCJS) are earning important vocational experience while also giving back to their community.

Juvenile Services is working with People Attempting to Help (PATH) via the Helping Others Pursue Excellence (HOPE) Academy, where offenders work to repair PATH’s transitional houses.

“A family has come to us, unstably housed, but they desire a change for their life and they want to transition, they just need some help to get there,” says PATH Executive Director, Andrea Wilson.

PATH rents out one of their 52 properties at half the fair market rate for low-income families. Once a family moves out, oftentimes there are repairs that need fixing, that’s where the kids at the hope academy come in.

Patrick Malone, a juvenile probation officer and vocational instructor tells us, “they can take what we’ve learned in the class and only talked about and actually put into application and do it for themselves and actually put it in use for a house for a family that needs it.”

The H.O.P.E. Academy is a residential program for male juvenile offenders within Smith County Juvenile Services. All of the kids go through a vocational program to learn different trades, but they’ve had to put a pause on working with PATH houses for the past seven months.

“The last time we worked on a path house was in march right before the COVID-19 lockdown,” says Malone.

The pandemic led to PATH losing volunteer groups to help with the housing for safety reasons. Now that they have help again to repair these properties, she says they can get back to filling them.

“As a property opens up,” says Wilson, “we want to get a family in as quickly as possible because a lot of families come to us in crisis, and they need a place to live and they’re ready to make a change and we want to have a property ready for them to move in.”

So far PATH has helped 15 families through their transitional housing program become full-time homeowners and according to Wilson all of them were the first in their family to ever own a home.

The HOPE Academy helps nonprofits like PATH repair transitional homes. The program not only...
The HOPE Academy helps nonprofits like PATH repair transitional homes. The program not only offers benefits to the community, but job skills to offenders who will soon rejoin the community.(Victoria Lara, KLTV 7 News)

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