Man Wants To Give Opportunity To Public Housing Neighbors

CLEVELAND (AP) - A resident of a Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority project believes that if he provides job opportunities for his neighbors, they can lift themselves out of poverty.

"Poor people are just getting poorer, not only in finance but in spirit," said Frank Kidd, a 35-year resident of public housing.

Kidd, 67, has contracts totaling $500,000 to provide landscaping, janitorial, moving and transportation services to the authority. He employs seven people full time, paying them $8 to $9.40 an hour.

"There are a lot of job opportunities that are CMHA-related," Kidd said.

His dream is to employ at least 100 people and help them earn salaries that will take them out of poverty. He also hopes to establish a training program with Cuyahoga Community College.

"I think it's a great idea, particularly the part on making people self-sufficient and contributing to their overall economic development," said Alex Johnson, president of the college's Metropolitan Campus.

Fred Johnson, 37, has worked for Kidd for four years, tending lawns and buffing floors at the authority's Carl B. Stokes Social Services Mall.

He earned $16,000 last year. Officials said the average income of a public housing household is $8,187.

"I met him through my cousin," Johnson said. "I asked for a job. He tried me out for a while. I've been with him ever since."

Kidd earned his associate's degree in small-business management from the college at age 47. He had taken courses for seven or eight years.

The community activist obtained his first business contract with the authority in 1995.

"Frank Kidd is one of the first residents of CMHA to work with the agency as a business owner and he is to be commended, not just for accepting the challenges of becoming an entrepreneur but for using his business to provide jobs for his fellow residents," said CMHA Executive Director Terri Hamilton Brown.

Federal regulations permit public housing authorities to hire qualified resident-owned businesses for as much as $1 million in contracts. After that, the resident-owned businesses compete with others.

The businesses must hold appropriate licenses and in some cases must be chartered corporations. Authority residents must own the businesses and demonstrate they can complete the work.

"It's a way to take them off assistance and get them to a more stable position in taking care of themselves," said Robert Townsend II, chairman of the authority's board of commissioners and a former public housing resident. "I think it's a wonderful program. I just wish more tenants would take advantage of it."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)