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CROWN POINT | Give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish you feed him for life.

That is the concept behind a new initiative between Roger Hayward, of It's Gary's Time Inc., and the Kimbrough work-release program to teach 10 offenders construction skills and rehabilitate eyesore homes in Gary.

It's Gary's Time purchased eight vacant Gary houses which need extensive renovation. Upon completion, the homes will be sold or rented as affordable housing. Hayward plans to use one for rehabilitative purposes, or "first step housing."

Ten participants, who will be paid hourly wages, received OSHA training last week at Safety Training Services in Hammond. In addition to construction skills, they also will be taught budgeting, business ownership, grant writing and real estate investment.

"This is an opportunity not just to provide jobs but to change lives," Hayward said. "This is not about dragging a man out for a day, anyone can do that. My ultimate goal is to provide them with enough tools so they will have the skills to succeed on the outside."

Mark Murphy, director of the Lake County Kimbrough Center, is pleased with Hayward's initiative.

"The collaboration between us and Hayward's organization is a win/win situation," Murphy said. "The majority of our clients work for minimum wage. This puts them in a position to earn better wages."

Murphy said recidivism studies show that unemployment is a huge factor for repeat offenders.

Hayward said his long-term vision is stabilizing Gary neighborhoods by decreasing the number of vacant, unsafe homes and lots, creating jobs, attracting businesses and helping restore properties to tax rolls.

It's Gary's Time's primary purpose is redeveloping and reconstructing otherwise abandoned buildings into affordable homes in the city, he said.

Hayward is no stranger to addiction, jail or homelessness. Clean and sober for nine years, he said his life experiences have motivated him to help others.

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