- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Baptist church and a community group will provide job training and other services at a proposed day-laborer center in the District.

D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr., a Ward 5 Democrat who has led efforts to resolve the problem of day laborers loitering around a Northeast shopping plaza, said the center is intended to train community residents and that the service providers are well qualified.

“They have that model,” said Mr. Thomas, who was expected to discuss the partnerships last night at a town hall meeting. “That’s why they were brought into it.”

Brentwood residents have increasingly complained about the situation at the Rhode Island Avenue Northeast plaza, particularly in front of the Home Depot, where they say some of the mostly Hispanic day laborers loiter, drink alcohol and urinate in public.

Mr. Thomas has secured $500,000 from the District’s budget to build the facility, which would include restrooms and classes ranging from language immersion to financial literacy.

The use of tax money to pay for such centers has sparked debate in Montgomery County and Herndon, in part because some of the laborers are illegal aliens.

Mr. Thomas has said the District’s Department of Employment Services will be responsible for deciding whether to monitor workers’ employment eligibility and that the center will comply with new federal regulations.

“There’s a lot going on the national front,” he said. “The feds [are] going to have to do something and we need to see what that message is.”

The center also would provide assistance with tax preparation, and officials hope to create an organized system linking the job-seekers with contractors coming to Home Depot.

Officials said Israel Manor Inc. — a nonprofit group formed by Israel Baptist Church on Saratoga Avenue Northeast — will be a “community partner” at the center, though its role has not been exactly defined.

The group was created to serve the “educational, employment, career development and recreational needs” of the local community, said Carrie Thornhill, Israel Manor’s managing director.

“We haven’t worked out details yet,” Mrs. Thornhill said. “We have agreed to partner and exactly what the specific roles of all the organizations [will be] has to be spelled out.”

The Facing It Together Academy, a neighborhood group that works to provide residents in Northeast neighborhoods such as Brentwood and Montana Terrace with job training and other skills, also will operate at the facility, officials said.

One in 10 adults in neighborhoods near the plaza are unemployed, officials said, and the academy has placed more than 30 people in jobs during the past year.

Mr. Thomas was expected last night to discuss the roles of the academy and the church in more detail.

However, officials have yet to decide between two potential sites on which to build the center.

Mr. Thomas expects a final decision within 30 to 90 days, and officials may choose to place a temporary center near the Home Depot within the next month.

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