Fifty years ago, 50,000 people lived in the Hill District. This number went to 28,000 in 1970 and to a paltry 15,000 in 1990. This information was shared by Carl Redwood, director of the Hill District Consensus and a leader of One Hill who worked to establish the Community Benefits Agreement between the community and the Penguins, to an overflow audience of special invitees including city officials, other tenants, community organizations, potential clients and other interested parties who were on hand for the official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremonies of the new Hill District First Source Center Aug. 26.
Redwood said it was gentrification that happened in the Hill, which occurs when an influx of individuals at a higher income level create an increase in the cost of housing, with former residents systematically driven out of an area previously defined by their presence. He cited an example of where the cost of a one bedroom apartment jumped from $800 to $1,400. Consequently families who once could afford living here can no longer.
“It is through the first Source Center that we endeavor to reverse that process,” he said. He received a resounding applause when he asked his listeners to envision a different paradigm, where the cost to live here increases, but instead of it forcing our residents out—jobs are created for which they are trained, and compensated enough to stay here.
Redwood was one of speakers during the ceremony held in the lobby of One Hope Center where the facility is housed. Other program participants included Mayor Luke Ravenstal, Evan Frazier, Hill House Association executive director; and First Source Site Coordinator, Ken Nesbit. Already operating since June 10, the Center has provided services to over 200 job seekers. Applicants also receive job assessments, career counseling, and referrals to job training and trade apprenticeship programs.
Ken Nesbit, gave the audience an overview of the hopes and plans for the Center, he shared information on success stories and of the importance of referrals.
“We’ve processed over 300 intake applications and are proud to say that most have been Hill residents, but we welcome anyone who wants to get ready for work, and then get connected to work,” Nesbit said. “I am especially proud and grateful to be involved in this initiative, as a former Hill resident, it makes me feel good to come back, see people who know me, who may then potentially see for themselves, a possibility for their future.”
The Center is an outcome of the Hill District Community Benefits Agreement and is a referral and placement center which provides the full range of employment services for applicants—residents of the Hill are to have first preference of job openings with the Penguins as well as jobs created from the development of the 28 acres where the old arena now sits. The facility is managed by the Hill House Association and according to Nesbit also part of that agreement is that they will receive first notification from the penguins when jobs come open in the new arena. They (First Source Staff) will have five days to make appropriate referrals—”it will be our responsibility to find people within that timeframe,” Nesbit said. “This may seem like a short window, but as we continue building our client base we fully expect to have a more than sufficient list to work from.”
It helps the process that in its short time of operating, the Center has already formed valuable relationships with major construction operations; Massaro, and P.J. Dick as well as the Penguins and building new partnerships everyday. Nesbit is confident and says that “though there have been some initial negative comments from naysayers; the First Source Center is already making a positive impact on the Community.”
Frazier returned to the podium and just before his closing remarks and the ribbon cutting, recognized some of the community notables who were in attendance; a few of whom were Ron Porter, consultant for the Penguins, Karen-Eady Lockett of the KZ Zone, members of the legal team who worked on the CBA agreement, and Clarence Curry of the Sports and Exhibition Authority. Guests were invited to tour the facility immediately following the Ribbon Cutting.
The Community Benefits Agreement provides that the City of Pittsburgh, and Allegheny County are committed to funding the Center for a minimum of two years, additional support for the center includes funding from Heinz Endowments, McAuley Ministries and other anticipated sources.