What do you get when you combine sustainability, criminal justice, and workforce development? Meet INTERVINE, a social enterprise that is building a greener New York City by providing opportunities to New Yorkers.
Some of you may be familiar with The HOPE Program, a leading workforce development organization based in Brooklyn and the Bronx. HOPE empowers New Yorkers to pursue employment in the horticulture and construction fields through job training and soft skills support. While HOPE already works with at-risk populations through its signature program model, a funding opportunity catering to justice-involved individuals arose in 2017, and HOPE saw the perfect opportunity to expand.
Fast forward one year later and Intervine, a fully functional social enterprise, opened for business in 2018. The Intervine model is simple: provide ten weeks of paid on-the-job training to formerly incarcerated New Yorkers, working with New York City BIDs and developers to install green roofs, solar panels, and complete landscaping projects. You might come across Intervine participants’ work when walking around Hunts Point, where they installed over 10,000 blubs on a greenway, or in Staten Island, where the work crew installed a fully functional green roof on a building. The participants at Intervine learn practical skills while also tapping into HOPE’s soft skills programs, wrap-around services such as free breakfast and mental health counseling if needed, and resume preparation.
Our team not only had the pleasure of helping the HOPE Program secure funding for the launch and design the Intervine model, but we were able to see through the team’s in action and meet with program participants. While the cohort touted their skills in green roofing, horticulture, plants, and construction, they also highlighted the self-esteem and confidence-building that comes from working as a team and speaking in front of their cohort. Intervine’s Toby Shepphard Bloch is proud of the 23 participants who have graduated and 12 who gained jobs so far, making sure all participants know they can come back any time and access soft skills services if needed. As he says, “when you’re HOPE, you’re HOPE for life.”