Twenty-year-old Quinton Shackelford was a high school dropout who spent his days in the streets until Chattanooga Housing Authority officials recruited him into their Youthbuild program.
Once there, he passed his GED and got a full-time job.
"There is so much I want to do now," he said Tuesday. "I want to go into law, to travel, whichever door opens, I'm ready to walk through it."
Shackelford's success story was highlighted Tuesday at the housing authority's monthly board meeting - where members also announced that funding for the Youthbuild program ran out this year.
"This is a bittersweet moment," said Bryant Lowery, CHA's director of asset management. "This past June or July we exhausted the funding and have phased out the program."
Lowery said after the meeting that CHA tried to find funding last year to continue Youthbuild but was unsuccessful and no further efforts are being made to maintain it.
Youthbuild is a federally funded program that landed at the housing authority in 2002 with a mission to stop the cycle of poverty by helping high school dropouts ages 16 to 24 earn their GED and learn how to build houses.
CHA received at least $1.8 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to operate the program, records show.
The program gave youths a job trade while supplying low- to moderate-income communities with affordable housing. For instance, Youthbuild students helped build some of the houses at the Villages at Alton Park.
Shackelford is among 17 high school dropouts who earned GEDs within the past three years through Youthbuild, and more than 60 people participated.
At Tuesday's meeting, CHA officials also approved their five-year plan, which includes the proposed demolition of seven housing developments that housing officials call old and in disrepair.
No residents objected to the plan at Tuesday's meeting, but Citywide Advisory Board President Jessica Lawrence, who lives in East Lake Courts, said she was upset that the board was not made aware of the plan.
The Citywide Advisory Board is comprised of all the presidents of the resident associations of each public housing site as well as other community leaders.
Also at the meeting, CHA's Housing Choice Voucher Director Tammie Reeves told board members and the audience that the agency will distribute voucher program applications for the first time in two years on Thursday.
CHA will accept applications from 8:30 a.m. Oct. 4 until noon Oct. 15. Applications may be hand-delivered or mailed to the CHA office at 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave. on or before Oct. 15. Applications may not be faxed or sent by e-mail.
Instead of having people wait in long lines trying to be first on the list, housing officials say they will use a lottery system to determine which applications will be processed. Officials plan to pull 200 names. The drawing will be done publicly at 10 a.m. Oct. 29. However, applicants don't have to be present to receive a voucher.
Contact Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.