The program is set up to be an effective way to help address the need for more affordable workplace housing throughout Missouri, Illinois and Iowa, said Ron Tierney, St. Louis Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program Program Coordinator.

The discussion surrounding tiny homes has taken a new turn — inmates at Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green will soon be constructing the homes for sale in the Tri-State area, with a similar project set to follow in Iowa.

Stakeholders affected by the new initiatives gathered for the Tri-State Housing Summit on Friday, June 8, in Quincy. Northeast Community Action Corporation (NECAC) and area partners looked to a similar program in South Dakota for the Aspire Partnership Prison Homes program that will provide Missouri inmates a valuable skill for when they are released, give members of the St. Louis Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program an active role in supervising the project and boost the amount of affordable workplace housing available to residents in the area. Following the summit, the program reached the first stage: Teams at Northeast Correctional Center will begin constructing the approximately 500-square-foot homes under the guidance of members of the apprenticeship program, after details such as the precise home dimensions are calculated.

The houses will be a bit over 500 square feet in size, and available for purchase for about $45,000. A foundation and utility hookups would be available for an additional cost, and the homes will be transported by truck to each purchaser’s location. NECAC will oversee sales of the homes and provide homeownership classes to buyers.

The program is set up to be an effective way to help address the need for more affordable workplace housing throughout Missouri, Illinois and Iowa, said Ron Tierney, St. Louis Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program Program Coordinator. He said the program is in its “infancy stages” as officials ensure that the completed homes — currently estimated to be 32 feet long and 16 feet wide — can easily pass through the facility’s sally port for loading onto a trailer.

Each home built at the Northeast Correctional Center will take about one month to complete and offenders will have the opportunity to join the St. Louis Carpenters Apprenticeship program with advanced standing when they leave the Northeast Correctional Center. He said the curriculum will provide offenders with all the various hand skills necessary in the carpentry industry — “putting them way ahead of the curve when they get out.” Karen Pojmann, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, echoed the sentiment that the program will make a lasting difference as it moves past the beginning stages.

“At this point, we’re excited about the possibility of working on this project,” she said. “It will give offenders a lot of experience in the building industry, and they can even learn certification and apprenticeships.”

Tierney commended NECAC officials, representatives with the Northeast Correctional Center and Scott Anders, Chief U.S. Probation Officer with the Eastern District Court of Missouri, for working together to help bring the program to fruition. Tierney said that work is afoot already for homes being built in Iowa correctional facilities, and he looks forward to future expansion for the program to meet training needs for offenders preparing to re-enter the workforce.

“We hope to emulate this around the state of Missouri, as well as in Illinois,” he said.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com