Supervisors working with Climb CDC to educate, employ, house

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, October 5, 2022

A new community focused group is setting up shop in Pearl River County to assist young people in getting a helping hand to a successful career and life.

Climb Community Development Corporation is based out of Gulfport, but is establishing a satellite location in Picayune. CEO John Whitfield said the organization offers training in culinary arts, construction and other areas.

The organization recently received a grant that will allow for the expansion of services into other counties. Initially the plan was to offer those services in Hancock and Jackson Counties, but “the Lord sent them here,” said COO Jake Cook.

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Young people aged 16 to 24 are eligible to participate in the employment program, which can help them get their high school diploma if they dropped out of school, and provide them with on the job training through a program that reimburses a company for up to 600 hours of on-the-job training and for their Workman’s Compensation insurance. The hope is that the company that trained the young person will consider employing them full time when the allotted grant period ends. During the presentation they asked the members of the Board to help them find local employers who offer jobs with livable wages.

District I Supervisor Donald Hart said Climb CDC will set up shop in the newly completed community center on Beech Street in Picayune as part of a partnership with the county. Cook said the major qualification is that the participant be within the age range, but the program does hope to help those who are homeless, without a diploma and are low income. Counties and cities can qualify as employers in the program.

Climb CDC will also offer another program aimed at homeless young people between the ages of 18 to 24 that will help them find a home of their own. The program will help them pay 12 to 18 months of rent, cover the deposit and even help with food and medical expenses.

Whitfield said that the idea of homelessness does not mean they don’t have a place to stay, but also applies to people who may be staying with friends or family temporarily. Whitfield said the aim of this program is to set them on a path to home ownership.

Whitfield said the idea is to build on the two programs to help build the work force, which will affect economic development.

Just like with the employment program, Climb CDC will need a list of available places to rent, but the property owners can’t ask for commercial rates.

According to recent school district assessment grades, graduation rates in the county range from 79 percent in the Picayune School District to 19 and 90 percent in the Pearl River County and Poplarville school districts respectively.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said there is a need for vocational programs since every parent can not expect every child to attend a four year college.

Whitfield said that their programs have a 92 percent success rate for graduating high school and typically caters to the young people who did not succeed via the “regular system.”

“We know there is a population here than can utilize our services,” Whitfield said.

There are also options to help those who may be on probation and any graduates from this program are counted to the school district in which they live.

After completing the program, staff with Climb CDC follow up with the participants for a year to ensure they don’t need additional aid with food, housing or other needs.

Cook said the program also has a direct relationship with Ingalls Shipbuilding in Gulfport and there is a transportation program for those without their own vehicle from Pearl River County to Gulfport three times a day.