The lives of average persons are filled with mostly modest goals: earn a decent wage, settle down and live comfortably. But Chris Collins recognizes that even ambitions as humble as those aren’t easily achieved by everyone. That’s why his own goal concerns helping often-marginalized people achieve theirs with his H.O.P.E. Initiative.
    Through H.O.P.E., or Housing Our People Everywhere, Collins seeks to use scrap or recycled metal rather than wood as the chief material in a structure’s framework. The result, he said, is not only a sounder, cheaper house, but one that is easier to make.
    Collins outlined his mission to the Chenoa City Council Monday night, noting that there was a great deal of available and unused property in the city for making jobs via a home fabrication workshop and building such homes within the community as well.
    The employees he sought would be individuals in need of such homes, such as prison parolees or those who were otherwise homeless. As a financial incentive to the city, he told the council that the state could offer up to $36,000 per individual parolee sheltered in an approved halfway house within a community.
    “It’s not a hand out; it’s a hand up,” Collins told Mayor Chris Wilder and the city commissioners. Collins said the device, a cold-rolled steel stud framing machine, could make eight studs a minute and that the homes that were built with the studs resulted ultimately “won’t burn, won’t absorb water, (were) stronger, termite free, mold resistant, seismic and recyclable.”
    Wilder advised Collins to return with a formal plan for his project, which the mayor felt could be of benefit to the community.
    On Tuesday, Collins told the Daily Leader that this had been his calling since Hurricane Katrina. He went to New Orleans in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster that left many thousands without homes to utilize the fruits of 20 years of research, during which he notes that he discovered building homes out of metal was more sustainable and affordable than the use of wood.
    Since then, Collins said that he has helped out in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2008 and Nashville, Tenn., in 2010 and as recently as Houston last year following severe floods in those places, showing residents how homes could be rebuilt using the framing machine.
    “You put steel in the end of it, you tell the computer how many of them you want, and the machine will bend all of the material into a structural stud that exceeds every building code in the county,” he said, adding that homes could then be build around that framework.
    The mission of H.O.P.E., he said, was to provide affordable and environmentally friendly housing for everyone. But the more immediate concern was at-risk people. Helping prison parolees, as well as struggling veterans and the homeless, was crucial for functioning society he said. His hope was to build enough halfway houses, with one occupant each, to ensure that every parolee in the country had a private place to live.
    Collins also wanted them to learn to use the machines so that they could help other parolees improve their standard of living outside of incarceration — a cause that, to him, made as much economic sense as it did a moral sense.
    “The second they set foot out of prison, they’re setup for failure to revoke their parole and send them back because the jobs are not available for them,” he said. “And the problem is that the jobs really are available for them, we just have to get them started. We don’t have the resources to keep rebuilding after every natural disaster that happens and it costs a lot of money to house prisoners in prison.
    “We can use the scrap, discarded materials from natural disasters. Besides all the cost and insurance advantages of houses made of metal versus wood, I can put twice as many studs as wood two-by-fours in the big cargo crates that ends up weighing the same, so it saves money anyway you look at it.”
    More information on Collins and H.O.P.E. can be learned on his website, www.httprogram.org.