This article originally appeared as a sponsored post on Gothamist, but we feel that it should be out there without Doe Fund having to pay, so we are re-posting Gothamist's sponsored story without permission, and without accepting any payment whatsoever.
This post is brought to you by The Doe Fund. The following story was written by Angel L., Ready, Willing & Able, Class of 2016.
You've probably seen guys in blue "Ready, Willing & Able" uniforms cleaning the city's streets. I was one of them. It's not easy work. We get up at dawn, we load up into our vans, and then we spend the day keeping the sidewalks clean—whether it's 10 below in winter or 100 degrees in July.
But you may not know why the guys are out there. Who they are. What they do next.
You may not know that when we’re not out cleaning streets and shoveling snow, we’re in classrooms, learning how to use computers, learning job skills, getting licensed for careers.
You might not know that the opportunity to clean the streets and get paid saves lives. But it saved mine.
I didn’t want to be homeless at 25 years old. I didn’t want to be a drug dealer or a gang member, either. But last year, around Christmas, that’s exactly what I had become: a nobody. I was sitting on a cot in the city's Bedford-Atlantic homeless shelter. I was lonely. I was scared. And I needed help.
I was 3 years old when Children’s Services took me and my two sisters away. My mother was addicted to drugs and my dad was in prison. At our first foster home, we got beaten every day. They moved us again and again. Eventually we got separated.
When I was 13, my mother took me back. She needed money for her drug habit. I did my best for her and joined a gang to start making money. I got beaten up, shot twice, and stabbed…all before my 18th birthday. Eventually, I couldn’t do it anymore. I stopped bringing in money and my mom kicked me out. I was homeless.
My dreams have never been big. I want to be a husband someday. I want to be the father I never had for my own kids...someday. I just didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity.
But opportunity is exactly what I got at The Doe Fund.
When I walked through The Doe Fund’s doors, I became somebody. The facility where we all live is clean and nice. The food is good. The teachers, the social workers, and the other guys in the program all believed in me. For the first time in my life, I was part of something good. That’s how I found the goodness in myself. And it started with the cleaning the streets.
A lot of people say that homeless people and incarcerated people deserve a second chance in life. But the truth is, a lot of them are like me— they never really had a first. The Doe Fund was my way out of a cycle that had sent my father to prison, made my mother a drug addict, and threatened to take my life away before it even started.
The next time you see one of the “men in blue” cleaning up, say hello to them. Tell them how much their work matters to you. Because what we do out there is about much more than just cleaner streets. It’s about saving our lives.
To learn more about The Doe Fund and support the "men in blue" of Ready, Willing & Able, visit http://www.doe.org
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