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Federal grant will help Gilmor Homes residents get and keep jobs

Federal grant will help Gilmor Homes residents get and keep jobs
A group of Gilmor Homes residents pack a community center to hear about a $2.5 million federal Jobs Plus grant. (Carrie Wells)

Dana Cowan lived in the Gilmor Homes public housing community in 1999, working a job with irregular hours that didn't pay enough to support her two children.

Through Jobs Plus, a federally funded program that helps connect residents with employment, education and financial literacy, she got a job with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. She and other residents in the program were also offered work clothing if they didn't have it.

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Seventeen years later, she still works at the housing authority as a Section 8 inspector, and the program helped her get her GED, her driver's license, her first car and a new apartment.

"I love my job," said Cowan, 46. "At the time I had two small ones, so I was trying to get better employment... I was able to obtain a better paying job and I've made a career out of my job."

On Tuesday, the housing authority announced it had won another Jobs Plus program grant of $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program again will help connect residents of Gilmor Homes, which is in one of the poorest areas of Baltimore, with jobs and help them obtain more education.

The public housing also is near where police apprehended Freddie Gray whose death after a spinal cord injury suffered in police custody later sparked rioting last year.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the neighborhood's crime rates, low education rates and lack of quality affordable housing made it a prime candidate for such a grant.

"The thing that I am so grateful for is that time after time we learn from what's worked, we learn from what hasn't worked and we build a better system. And I think Jobs Plus is a great example of that," Rawlings-Blake said. "This a holistic approach to ensuring that we are creating positive pathways for people in this community to achieve the sustainable and sustaining jobs that they want for themselves and their families."

Linda Moyd, the Gilmor Tenant Council president, said the program will help residents "change their lives, to move from just getting a job to making a career. There's a big difference. So this grant truly means a lot for the residents of Gilmor Homes. Making a difference in peoples' lives is just awesome."

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