Inmates building families houses

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Heading a single income household, local mother Tracy Rabut found herself unable to purchase a home — something inmates at the Riverbend Institution are helping her with. 

The Rabut family is seen in front of the house Habitat for Humanity volunteers — mainly inmates of the Riverbend Institution — is in the process of building for them. From left is Lachlan, London and matriarch Tracy. 

Heading a single income household, local mother Tracy Rabut found herself unable to purchase a home — something inmates at the Riverbend Institution are helping her with.

On Wednesday, Rabut and her young children Lachlan and London viewed their new 1,000-square-foot home, in the midst of construction.

While her kids ran about between support beams, claiming dibs on which room they want, a group of Habitat for Humanity supporters joined Lachlan in thanking those that are making the house a reality — Riverbend Institution inmates.

“We’re trying to give people the opportunity and skills to get them back out into the community and be successful and get skills,” John Sargent said. As such, he added, it’s a win-win for both Habitat for Humanity and the inmates that volunteer.

Sargent is chief executive officer of CORCAN — an employment training branch of Services Canada.

Over the next five years, CORCAN has committed to the construction of one ready-to-move home per year to add to Prince Albert’s Habitat for Humanity ranks — the Rabut home the first.

This commitment is significant in Habitat for Humanity meeting its goals, Prince Albert chapter’s president Morris Sawchuk said.

“With a town the size of ours, there’s a limit to what we can do with volunteers,” he said.

Riverbend Institution’s contribution will mean five more families with homes over the next five years, as well as teach various offenders’ construction skills required to help them make it in the real world, when they get out.

Referencing the Rabut family’s brand new home, which is expected to be complete and moved off of the Riverbend Institution property by early next year, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Victoria Jurgens said, “That’s the Saskatchewan Advantage we’ve all been talking about.”

We’re trying to give people the opportunity and skills to get them back out into the community and be successful and get skills. John Sargent

The provincial government kicks in $50,000 toward every Habitat for Humanity building — something Sawchuk notes as having a longer-lasting effect than most grants.

Families in Habitat for Humanity homes pay a mortgage rate they’re able to afford, but end up paying off their home — payments that are used to fund additional homes.

“It’s probably the only self-perpetuating system that works that well, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Sawchuk said.

“We all must work together to make sure everyone benefits from our economic growth,” Jurgens said, highlighting the provincial program as a success. 

Though this is Correctional Services Canada’s biggest commitment yet, it’s far from the first, Sawchuk said.

Inmates have a long history of building cabinets, vanities and other items for Habitat for Humanity homes, “At a tremendous cost savings to habitat,” he said.

Offenders on day parole also spend time volunteering at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, at 911 Marquis Road, as well as doing construction on other Habitat for Humanity houses.

Hiring inmates has consistently proven a positive experience, Sawchuk said.

“I would recommend it to anyone,” he said. “This is a labour force that’s available.” 

Organizations: Habitat for Humanity, Riverbend Institution, CORCAN Prince Albert Correctional Services Canada

Geographic location: London, Canada, 911 Marquis Road

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