Pinellas Ex-Offender Reentry Coalition (PERC), which provides job training and support to help keep clients from returning to jail, saw a gap and a way to fill it – and make money to support its mission all at the same time.
- Ex-offenders need training for jobs that pay more than minimum wage so that they can support their families.
Construction companies in Pinellas need skilled labor and will pay well when they find it.
- People are clamoring for tiny houses. Private individuals want to live in them, and government and other nonprofits want them to provide affordable housing for the homeless, elderly and others in substandard homes.
All PERC needed was some startup capital.
Enter the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay Big Idea Grant.
PERC was one of three finalists for the $50,000 grant, which in in 2017 focused on proposals to start or expand social enterprises. (A social enterprise is project or program run by a nonprofit to meet a need aligned with its mission that also raises money to support the mission.)
The Tiny House company was the unanimous choice of the selection committee and won the grant.
A year later, PERC can’t build tiny houses fast enough. It has agreements with the city of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and others for multiple houses. The first tiny houses will go to homeless veterans.
“The idea has taken off beyond our wildest dreams,” PERC CEO Michael Jalazo said. “We’ve leveraged the $50,000 grant to a full-fledged company that helps the community in many ways. And the graduates of our program are all finding jobs that can provide them with the income not just to survive but to thrive.”