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Conservation Corps Helps Homeless Adults Develop Skills for Employment and Life

When Lee Palmer joined his cohort of the Seattle Conservation Corps (SCC) in early 2020, he was nearly out of options. His family had started living in their car when he was 11 and he struck out on his own at age 17. As a young adult, Palmer was recovering from years of drug addiction and living on the streets. He was desperately trying to gain custody of his school-age son. SCC provided him with a lifeline.

“The Corps was the best second chance in life anyone could ask for,” says Palmer, who is now a unit supervisor with the program. During the first months on the job, he was able to work on earning his GED and learning skills to “help me in my job and in my life.”

Funded in part by the Seattle Park District, SCC is a comprehensive work development program for homeless adults. A unit of Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), SCC’s mission is to use private and publicly funded work projects to employ people experiencing homelessness in a supportive work environment, offering work experience leading to long- term employment, housing, and personal stability.

The SCC provides up to one year paid employment to participants combined with on-site case management services, housing assistance, and support for other challenges to stability. The SCC has been providing these services since 1986.

The SCC is funded to serve 50 homeless adults in an average year. Of those, approximately 80% will secure stable housing and 70% will complete the program and move on to full time employment with benefits. Program graduates move on to full-time jobs in SPR and other agencies and businesses; others pursue the skilled trades through a state-recognized pre-apprenticeship program pathway.

Many of SCC’s work projects benefit City of Seattle departments. These have included Green Stormwater Infrastructure maintenance for Seattle Public Utilities, residential board-ups of vacant properties for the Department of Construction and Inspection, and dozens of other large and small projects for Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle City Light and Seattle Parks and Recreation.

With the help of SCC, Lee Palmer now has custody of his son and is living in a home of his own.

Learn more about how the Seattle Park District supports Seattle Parks and Recreation programs in the 2021 Seattle Park District Annual Report.