In 1978, Dorothy Stoneman, now CEO of YouthBuild USA Inc and a 2007 Skoll Social Entrepreneur, asked neighborhood teens in East Harlem, New York, how they would like to improve their community. They answered, “We’d rebuild the houses. We’d take empty buildings back from the drug dealers and eliminate crime.” Together they did a gut rehabilitation of a ten-unit apartment building; thereafter the program was replicated in five New York City communities with city funds.
In 1990, YouthBuild USA was founded to scale up YouthBuild as a proven social innovation to break the cycle of poverty. By 1992 the program had been replicated in 20 cities with private and local funds and was authorized in the federal budget within HUD. In 2006, at the recommendation of the White House, Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and JohnKerry (D-MA) led the transfer of YouthBuild from HUD to DOL.
Over 110,000 YouthBuild students have produced over 21,000 units of affordable, increasingly green housing in rural and urban communities across the United States. Research on 800 graduates showed that 75 percent up to seven years after graduation were in college or employed with wages averaging $10 an hour.