Workers from 180 Properties at a two-flat in Riverdale

Houses and condos that lenders take over in foreclosure often need a lot of help getting turned around into habitable places again. For one Skokie-based not-for-profit, cleaning those homes provides an opportunity to repair something else at the same time: the lives of its employees.

“Having this job allowed me to get back into my children’s life,” Joseph Hill said recently, while cataloging the repair needs of a West Rogers Park condo for his employer, 180 Properties. A former gang member who served a prison term, Hill said that thee years ago he was living on the streets and had no contact with his three children. He’s now a crew chief for 180 Properties, which is a joint venture of the Cara job- and life-skills program and Mercy Housing Lakefront, an affordable housing agency.

“There’s a lot of housing that needs to be taken care of for the lenders,” says Chris Rintz, the head of 180 Properties, “and there’s a lot of human capital in the city that needs help too.”

Along with skills coaching, the workers get a living wage that starts at $12 an hour and includes benefits. In late December I spent some time with two of the 11 crews fielded by 180 Properties. Click through the photos below for the story.