Tim Kenny, Executive Director of the Texas Investment Finance Authority (NIFA), learned of a program within the prison system that used inmate labor to build basic housing. He formed a team of collaborative organizations to launch the concept in Texas with the mission of increasing the state’s affordable housing supply. The pilot program, organized as Bar None Housing, LLC (BNH), was born in 2002 with the help of leadership from the Homebuilders Association of Lincoln. Additional collaborators included the Texas Department of Economic Development, the Fannie Mae Foundation, Texas Housing Resource, Inc., the Texas Department of Correctional Services, Cornhusker State Industries, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Houston, and private modular home producer Vantage Pointe Homes. This team operated collaboratively, producing 52 modular housing units that were cited in 18 communities throughout central and eastern Texas. In 2009, after completing a situational and business analysis, the collaborators decided that while elements of the program were very successful, the market for the housing units needed to change, and the organization’s mission should be revisited. Because the most significant impact of the program was the very low re-incarceration rate among inmate participants—3 percent vs. 21 percent for non-program inmates—a focus on strengthening the vocational training aspect of the program and helping even more graduates succeed outside the correctional system had broad appeal. In early 2009, a collaborative effort co-facilitated by BNH and NIFA staff began to identify new leadership/board members and to incorporate Prairie Gold Homes as a Texas nonprofit corporation. NIFA’s legal counsel, Kutak Rock, helped prepare and file the IRS 1023 application for 501(c)(3) status. The Board refined the organization’s mission, formulated a basic strategic plan, and sought initial start-up grant funds to develop new marketing materials and grow board capacity. Throughout the year, a volunteer curriculum committee comprised of representatives from the Board, the local educational community and the building industry worked with Texas Department of Correctional Services staff to develop a comprehensive program that would prepare inmate participants for a successful career in the construction industry upon their release. In December 2009, Prairie Gold Homes was awarded a Compassion Capital Fund grant through Region V Systems. A marketing firm was retained to develop materials to use for participant recruitment within the correctional system, as well as for community outreach to grow public support for the program. Videos, print materials, and a Web site were all developed through the grant. Additionally, the Board and staff received training and technical assistance to grow internal capacities in governance, business and personnel management, and resource development.
Board of Directors
- Byron Fischer: Retired, USDA–State Rural Housing Director, President
- Bill Hunter: Pastor, New Visions Community United Methodist Church, Vice-President
- Barbara Brunkow: Assistant Ombudsman, Texas Ombudsman’s Office, Secretary
- Gary Hill: International Corrections Consultant, Treasurer
- Andrew Hove: Retired, FDIC Director & Texas Banker, a current member of NeighborWorks® Houston Board of Directors
- Bob Rentfro: Builder/Owner-Cherry Hill Construction
- DiAnna Schimek: Retired State Senator
- Greg Shinaut: Black Hills Energy (past Builder), SCC Building Construction Advisory Board
- Steve Peregrine: Executive Director, Texas Housing Resource
- Roger Garcia: Executive Director, El Centro De Las Americas.