“I see more now. I see the future.” - Jamel’s Story

Jamel at city beet kitchens

Jamel at city beet kitchens

“I look back at my family. My son’s face. My baby mother’s face. I can’t do this to them again.”

Jamel is a large man with a broad smile. His voice has a lightness to it that is pleasant, almost intoxicating.

I ask him to share his story.

“When I was in my twenties, before I was with Project Renewal, I was incarcerated for criminal possession with a weapon. Hanging around with the wrong people. Making the wrong decisions.” He considers his own statement for a second. “Wrong decisions can feel like the fun decisions at the time.”

And then: “Five years, I was in there.”

          I ask him when things turned around for him.

“Pretty much first day I got out on bail.”

What happened then?

“I got to look back at my family. My son’s face. My baby mother’s face. I told myself, ‘I can’t do this to them again.’”

How’d you get through it?

“I did a lot of working out, lot of cooking. Got my LTCA (Limited Time Credit Allowance). They take 6 months off of your sentence for good behavior. It sounds easy but in jail anything can happen. If I was to go to jail again…” He didn’t finish his sentence.

“I ended up getting out in May 2014, instead of November 2014. Didn’t want to tell anyone. I wanted everyone to be surprised. I wanted them to be like, ‘Oh snap, you home?’”

           We both laugh. I ask him what was the next move.

    “I was working through a mandatory drug program and anger management classes. Got a job at a furniture store. Was working over there for six days straight. Lady fired me because I was too slow. She said, ‘I’ll call you.’  Whatever that means…

“After that, a friend I was locked up with told me about the organization.”

Project Renewal?

“Yeah. I met with them, told them I wanted to be an electrician.”

Why an electrician?

“Electricians make a lot of money.”

That’s a good enough reason.

“But we got talking and they asked me what I liked to do. I said, ‘I do a lot of cooking.’ They asked if I wanted to work in the kitchen. ‘I’ll give it a shot,’ I said.

“Working in the catering department? Best thing in my life. I’m the only guy who came everyday, so they hired me. I’m growing. I’m learning everyday. I’m a sous chef now, up on 42nd street.”

What do you like to make?

“I like platters, salads. I love hors d'oeuvres. They take a lot of time and patience, but they taste so good. And I love the environment. Working with Chef Anthony, Eddie, Isaac. Part of me loving my job is loving my coworkers. If things get hectic, we find a way to work it out together.

“When I went into jail, my son was one. He was six when I got back. That’s not something I want to go through again. I think we all have moments where we can change. I had a lot of moments to change and say ‘I’m not going back to that.’”

He smiles. “I see more, now. I see the future.”

- Dan Foley

 

Jamel is the sous-chef at City Beet Kitchens, Project Renewal’s social purpose catering company that employs formerly homeless and unemployed men and women who have graduated from our award-winning Culinary Arts Training Program.

Join us in the fight against homelessness and order from City Beet Kitchens for your next corporate meeting, cocktail reception, wedding, or special event.

Visit www.citybeetkitchens.org.

"Why are you homeless" - Frank's story

“My life was a trainwreck. There was no love in my family. No father-son talk. No mother-son talk. So I would go out and find people who were like me.”

Renewal Farm needs your support to help more men like Frank. To donate, visit http://www.supportrenewalfarm.causevox.com.

Frank is a strong man with piercing blue eyes. When he speaks, he speaks in short sentences. Straightforward, clear, and without any illusions.  

“I’m Irish, from an Irish family,” he introduces himself. “Born and raised in Staten Island. Two brothers. Two sisters. I’m the oldest.”

I ask him what brought him to the farm.

He wipes the sweat from his forehead. He’s still wearing the gloves from gardening. “I was abused when I was a kid and all that stuff. Sexually abused. Mentally abused. Come from an alcoholic family they really didn’t care that much. Me being the oldest of my brothers and sister, I always looked after them, made sure they didn’t go through the things I went through.”

“I’m forty-one,” he continues, although he looks a lot younger. “Lost a lot of my childhood. That’s a lot of what I’ve been working on since I've been here.”

How did it start?

“I started using alcohol at an early age. Actually, my father introduced it to me. You get a toothache? Used to put alcohol on my teeth. Since then, I was attracted to it. It took away the pain, hid a lot of that pain.”

He takes off his gloves. “My life was a trainwreck. There was no love in my family. No father-son talk. No mother-son talk. So I would go out and find people who were like me. I was attracted to people using alcohol and doing drugs.”

What about your life now?

“I got two little boys, a little boy who’s twelve and one who’s eight. I always told myself I wouldn’t put them through what I went through. It comes down to the fact that I made those choices to choose alcohol over my life…”

He smiles. “But..I’ve learned a lot here. And it’s time to break that cycle.”

“I chose to come here. And it’s awesome. Just working on this farm is great. I take pride in what I do. Like I said, my history? I touch base on a lot of things in my history. These guys here are like my new family.”

“Working on the farm is great. When I plant the seed in the ground, it’s like new life, watching it grow. See what it comes out to. To me it’s beautiful.”

He looks around the farm. “I got God in my life today. I truly believe God works through other people, things, nature, whatever it is. When I go back out to society…”

He laughs. “Before this place, I was uncomfortable with myself. I’m a loner. I like to stay by myself. I saw you coming and I was like, ‘Oh no, he’s going to want to talk.’”

We both laugh.

“It’s an experience for me,” he continues. “If you don’t properly take care of the plants and vegetables, they’re going to wither away. I feel like it’s myself and my life. If I don’t constantly take care of my life and my things, I’ll wither away.”

“I always thought you had to have money, the nicest house. But just planting something, I take so much pride in it. I’m very grateful to be here. I’m actually thinking about staying out here. Once I fixed my attitude, the way I look at things…”

He doesn’t finish his sentence. He just smiles.

Frank has seen the radical change that Project Renewal can have on rehabilitation. And he’s not alone. Men of all walks of life pass through Renewal Farm on their road to recovery and a new life. However, due to recent budget cuts, Renewal Farm is losing funding. It’s our hope that, through the Why are You Homeless? campaign, more New Yorkers will come to understand that anyone can become homeless.

You can help support Project Renewal through donations. But we appreciate it just as much if you sign up to learn more about us or like us on Facebook. Check back next week for another eye-opening story about homelessness in the city. In the meantime, keep your eyes and hearts open.

- Dan Foley

"Why are you homeless?" - Tyler’s story

“I went to law school. That’s where my heroin problem got really bad. I almost finished. Had one class left.”

Renewal Farm needs your support to help more men like Tyler. To donate, visit http://www.supportrenewalfarm.causevox.com.

To say that Tyler is not my idea of the typical homeless man is an understatement. It’s not his age or race so much as it is his demeanor. He’s refined, charming, articulate. He reminds me of one of my college buddies.  

I ask him what he’s doing here.

“I grew up in Albany, went to college in Buffalo. That’s where I started doing drugs...I did well in school. Got into heroin over there. There’s a lot that comes through Toronto.” His eyes are squinting as he looks towards the sun.

“After college I worked as a case manager. Didn’t really like it. I went to law school. That’s where my heroin problem got really bad. I almost finished. Had one class yet.”

“I was using heroin every day—it’s not good, as it turns out.” He laughs. I smile, surprised at his candor. “The stress and being overwhelmed by it and 12 hours a day of work...I felt like I deserved to feel good.”

His face tightens up. “I kind of just collapsed at the end there. I became homeless...I didn’t have my apartment anymore. I stayed with friends, stayed at the shelter, I stayed with my girlfriend at the time, but I wasn’t getting any better. I didn’t know how to get better. She said you need to leave, you need to get help somewhere.”

So what did you do?

“I looked for a rehab, even though I did so begrudgingly. I wanted a therapy community, not a community that just yells at you, tells you that you screwed up.”

“I stayed with my uncle for a while. He’s a doctor and a professor at Dartmouth. He found out about this place, St. Christopher's and the Project Renewal Farm. He said this is your best bet.”

“I thought 90 days was an eternal amount of time. I was withdrawing from heroin and that wasn’t good.” His expression doesn’t change. “I didn’t know anything about addiction. I thought I was just screwed up and weak for doing it all. I learned a lot about addiction. I learned why I was doing what I was doing.”

“I have high blood pressure for a 26-year-old...the blood pressure of a 90-year-old...I don’t know what.” This time when he laughs, his mouth opens all the way. It’s contagious. I laugh too.

“They’re helping me finish school. I start my final class of law school next week. They help me with subway tickets and train tickets. I have a firm, sober foundation. Every day I’m going to come back here.”

His face firms up again. “I still have some problems, I don’t talk to my father.”

“But the farm’s been good. I’ve never really done this stuff before. At first I hated it because it’s repetitive. But now I find it meditative. I have to stay present. It’s what I needed.”

“When I got here, it was cold and I was planting seeds like...what’s the point? But now the plants are coming. It chills you out, being around plants that grow super slow. Plus,” he adds, cracking a smile. “Farming is a good thing to know. If there was a zombie apocalypse, and we had to start anew, I’d know what to do.”

Tyler has seen the radical change the Project Renewal can have on rehabilitation. And he’s not alone. Men of all walks of life pass through Renewal Farm on their road to recovery and a new life. However, due to recent budget cuts, Renewal Farm is losing funding. It’s our hope that, through the "Why Are You Homeless?" campaign, more New Yorkers will come to understand that anyone can become homeless.

You can help support Project Renewal through donations. But we appreciate it just as much if you just sign up to learn more about us or like us on Facebook. Check back next week for another eye-opening story about homelessness in the city. In the meantime, keep your eyes and heart open.

Dan Foley

"Why are you homeless?" - Fredly's story

“As you learn to groom the earth, you’re learning to groom yourself. This whole experience, it saved my life.”

“As you learn to groom the earth, you’re learning to groom yourself. This whole experience, it saved my life.”

Renewal Farm needs your support to help more men like Fredly. To donate, visit http://www.supportrenewalfarm.causevox.com.

Fredly is tall, well over six feet, and strong. His presence would be intimidating if it weren’t for his voice. He sounds more like a scholar than a homeless man.

He’s watering the plants when I meet him. I come up and shake his hand. He starts to tell me about himself.

“I’m one of eleven, the youngest, I’m thirty-four now,” he begins. “From Rockland County. Father had me when he was fifty and my mother was forty.”

He takes off his gloves and dusts them off. “Father’s an alcoholic, and he was pretty abusive. My household was secretive. Strict religious on the outside. But inside? Very chaotic, lot of shame and guilt. Lot of ignorance...Everything was always fear based.

“I didn’t feel comfortable with my family,” he laughs. “I remember wishing I was adopted.

“My first time consuming anything was when I was six or seven, but in my culture, when you were sick, you put a little rum on your tongue. So alcohol and drugs always put me in a place of comfort.”

I ask when things started to turn.

“By the time I was thirteen, I was kicked out of the house. Completely rebelled, so I was able to do more alcohol and drugs.”

Even though it’s still early, the sun is beating down. Fredly is covered in sweat. He wipes his head. “My whole life was trying to portray one side of myself to society, while isolating myself and being in a real dark place in reality.”

“I dropped out of high school. I thought I was unworthy.” He accentuates the final word of the sentence. “I only surrounded myself with the same negative behaviors that I shared. I was very manipulative. I sold drugs, I used drugs, I’ve been convicted of a felony…”

I ask him if he ever tried to turn it around.

“I tried to go back to school, but I had to drop out. I was going to college for pharmacy. But you can’t have a felony in the healthcare profession.”

He sighs. “I have a nine-year-old daughter. I was in a ten-year relationship. Not being home with the family, not answering the phone, being out. Lot of stress, lot of confusion. Family couldn’t understand my addiction. When they seen me, they seen a kid that had potential, that was smart, but couldn’t see why my life was so unmanageable...I couldn’t see why my life was so unmanageable.”

I ask him about Project Renewal.

“Psychedelics and alcohol led me here, but I haven’t touched drugs and alcohol in some time. I’m on a whole spiritual trip.”

He smiles. “This place taught me to love and respect myself. Lack of faith...this place kind of gives me hope, showed me that life is beyond material. There’s more to life. You can’t isolate yourself. When you isolate yourself, that’s where you go to the dark, dark, place. That’s where the disease starts.

“I was raised on the streets, now I feel like I’m in tune with nature. I feel like it’s symbolic. As you learn to groom the earth, you’re learning to groom yourself. I love it, I love it, this whole experience. It saved my life.”

I ask him if he’s close to the guys in the program.

“We’re all brothers. It creates an overwhelming experience. Sometimes you have brothers who love you more than you love yourself...they love you until you learn to love yourself.

“Before, for me to have I fun, I used to think I just needed money, drugs, and women. I was lacking that spirituality...but when you start to feel it, that higher power, that spirituality, that love...you start to feel that you’re feeding your spirit.

“Life is all about connections. The disease is all about isolation. It’s a daily struggle, but it’s also a daily blessing. So much has been given to me, I just want to give something back.”

Fredly has seen the radical change Project Renewal can have on rehabilitation. And he’s not alone. Men of all walks of life pass through the Renewal Farm on their road to recovery and a new life.  However, due to recent budget cuts, Renewal Farm is losing funding. It’s our hope that, through the "Why are you Homeless" campaign, more New Yorkers will come to understand that anyone can become homeless.

You can help support Project Renewal through donations. But we appreciate it just as much if you just sign up to learn more about us or like us on Facebook. Check back next week for another eye-opening story about homelessness in the city. In the meantime, keep your eyes and heart open.

- Dan Foley

 

"Why are you homeless?" - Mike's story

“Things are going to get better. Can’t get any worse. Dead or in jail. Other people got it worse...little by little, it gets better.”

“Things are going to get better. Can’t get any worse. Dead or in jail. Other people got it worse...little by little, it gets better.”

Mike stares down at the desk, gathering his thoughts. Then he raises his shaved head slightly and makes eye contact. 

“Just got back from Pennsylvania,” he tells me. “I was working there the last six months.”

Doing what?

“Factory jobs. I was in the carpenters’ union from 2003-2012 but since then I’ve just been working factory jobs. Stuff got tough in 2012. Been in and out of the shelter...and that was about it.”

His eyes return to the desk.

What about before that?

“Back after 9/11, I took training in a remedial hazardous waste remediation course. All that anthrax and asbestos. One of the instructors was a delegate and put me into the union. Just recently I was working at Amazon, as a seasonal employee, down in a Pennsylvania factory. But after the holiday season, they let me go.”

Then what’s next?

“Plan is to save up a little money, head out to Pennsylvania, rent out an apartment. They pay good, like $15 an hour. You can rent a place for like $600-$700 a month. House is $750.”

His eyes shift from the desk to mine, then back again.

“I’ve been in and out of the system since 2012. I’ll be in for a couple months, find a little place, lose a job, be back in for a bit. Had a few good years there, then it got tough.”

What happened back in 2012?

“Had a death in the family, got depressed. Got suspended from the union...I was between a rock and a hard place. I stayed at my grandma’s place, because she had just died. Stayed there for a year until the government came to repossess it.

“I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I wasn’t working non-union. I just wasn’t getting the work. It’s my fault for not going out and getting it, but if you’re not working 1,200 hours they suspend you.”

And what was life like after that?

He motions to his bag. “My bag weighs like sixty pounds. I’d start down on Broadway, go up to 40th street. Stop here, stop there. People telling you no. It gets tough.” He straightens out his back and says solemnly: “If it wasn’t for this, I’d be out on the street. God knows what you have to do. You have to break the law to survive. With this, at least you can wait for something good to happen.”

Why the shelter though. Do you have any family?

“I’m from Brooklyn...I have family around. But they’re living their own life. It wouldn’t be right for me to impose on them. They’re working hard every day. It was my own fault for feeling sorry for myself, for being lazy, being depressed. I should have went and found somebody to talk to, but I just inverted. I was a hermit.”

Do they know you’re here?

“I have an uncle I’m close with. He fixes cars. I help him, watch him. Clean up the tools. He knows my situation. He gave me an opportunity to come live with him, but I told him I’ll do it on my own. I’ll be alright.” A semblance of a one-sided smile forms on ‘alright.’ Then eyes back to the desk.

“My grandmother...she doesn’t want me to be sad, she don’t want me be a negative person. She wants me to do the right thing and make a happy life for myself.. So I just keep that in mind. My parents are in Florida, my little brother just bought a house. Once I get on my feet, I’ll get a house up the street.”

“Things are going to get better. Can’t get any worse. Little by little, it gets better.”

I nod. It can get better. That’s what we’re trying to help with Project Renewal.

There are tens of thousands of homeless people living in New York City. Many of them have stories just like his. It’s our hope that, through the Why Are You Homeless? campaign, more New Yorkers will come to understand that anyone can become homeless.

You can help people like Mike. Project Renewal runs, in part, on donations, but we appreciate it just as much if you just sign up to learn more about us or like us on Facebook. Check back next week for another eye-opening story about homelessness in the city. In the meantime, keep your eyes and heart open.

"Why are you homeless?" - Steve's story

Steve’s eyes are tired but focused. He tells me to open the drawer next to me. Inside sits a collection of skilled pencil sketches. I pull out the top one. It’s a profile of a nameless superhero.  

I tell him it’s pretty good.

“I was one of the first people of color to work for Marvel,” he says in a raspy voice.

Marvel Comics?

Steve doesn’t nod, but his eyes remain focused, looking past me. “I know Stan Lee personally—I went to Jack Kirby’s funeral. Back in those days, DC didn’t hire people of color.”

I look at the sketch again. You must have practiced a lot, I say.

“I never practice, I just put my brain to paper,” he says.

Steve is 83 years old, although I wouldn’t have put him a day over 60. In the first minute of our conversation, he runs through his life story like he’s checking boxes.

“Came here in 1936 from Cuba...graduated high school...joined the Navy, fought in the Korean War. Got married. My wife passed away from breast cancer in 1969. Got 7 Kids, 14 grandkids, great grandkids…”

I asked how he could be homeless with his background.

“It’s a series of events...some too personal to mention.” His expression doesn’t change, but the subject does.

“I believe in respect,” he says. “Respect rolls two ways. If you want it, demand it, you must give it. There’s rules you follow.”

He pauses. “I’ve spent some time in prison. It’s not a badge of courage, it’s a badge of stupidity...but you learn and you move on.”

I ask him about the shelter.

“It’s damn expensive to live in New York,” he says. “With these vampire landlords.”

I laugh.

“Homeless is at an all time high,” he continues. “We live in the greatest city...in the greatest country on earth, but there’s almost 60,000 homeless out there. It makes the the country look bad. It makes people not want to care...It used to be just people of color, now it’s everybody...you’ve got seniors out there like me, freezing to death.

“But the trick is to work with the system, not against it. If you feel you’re being trampled on, use this.” He points to his head.

“You come into the shelter system with hopes to be self-sufficient. It doesn’t always happen that way...but I’ll be out of here by spring. The goal is moving forward–-meet with the right people.

“Maybe my comments, my thoughts can motivate others.”

He collects himself. We’re silent for a few seconds.

What are you doing in the meantime?

“I’m doing art. If I’m not doing art, I’m reading.” He motions towards one of the posters he’s created for Project Renewal on the wall.

“Project Renewal’s one of the best organizations in the city, but it needs help

Like Steve said, there are tens of thousands of homeless people living in New York City. Many of them have stories just like his. It’s our hope that, through the Why Are You Homeless? campaign, more New Yorkers will come to understand that anyone can become homeless.

You can help people like Steve. Project Renewal runs, in part, on donations, but we appreciate it just as much if you just sign up to learn more about us or like us on Facebook. Check back next week for another eye-opening story about homelessness in the city. In the meantime, keep your eyes and heart open.

- Dan Foley

 

New York City Homeless, Formerly Homeless, and At-Risk Individuals Graduate From Successful Jobs Program

Next Step Internship Program March 2016 Graduates

Next Step Internship Program March 2016 Graduates

The Next Step Internship Program (NSIP), a groundbreaking program launched in 2014 by Project Renewal, hosted a graduation ceremony for 12 students on Thursday, March 31, 2016 at Project Renewal’s Next Step Program, 200 Varick Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY10014. Through an innovative model of classroom learning and paid on-the-job training, NSIP prepares homeless, formerly homeless, and at-risk individuals for entry-level positions in the social service sector, including homeless shelters.

In its first two years, NSIP has had twice the success rate of similar programs nationwide — 76 percent of NSIP graduates found job placement within six months of graduating (vs. 36 percent nationwide) and over 70 percent are still employed after a year. Project Renewal has over 20 years of experience managing workforce programs for homeless individuals, and attributes NSIP’s success to two key factors: small class sizes and internships.

“A large part of why our program is successful is that our extensive training prepares students for the real world through practical experience. Most of our students were once homeless themselves — this makes them uniquely qualified to work in shelters,” said Project Renewal’s President and CEO Mitchell Netburn.

The program is turning around the lives of New Yorkers like Secilly Aviles, a 26-year-old formerly homeless mother of three, who graduated last month. Through NSIP, Aviles interned at Project Renewal’s Third Street Men’s Shelter in Manhattan, where her experience readied her for a full-time position with opportunities for advancement.

NSIP builds students’ skills in crisis prevention, computer use, conflict management, and dealing with individuals suffering from addiction or mental health issues, and provides life skills — like financial management and effective communication.  The program also provides participants with certifications in F-02 Fire Guard for Shelters, Nalaxone Administration, and Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Training.  All graduates receive job placement support.

Fore more information about Project Renewal's Next Step Internship Program, visit http://www.projectrenewal.org/jobs

Aging Out of Foster Care and Into the Kitchen

A graduate of Our NewEst Culinary Arts TRAINING PROGRAM with program director Barbara Hughes

A graduate of Our NewEst Culinary Arts TRAINING PROGRAM with program director Barbara Hughes

Project Renewal is offering a new track of our award-winning Culinary Arts Training Program to young men and women who are aging out of foster care—a population that faces disproportionately high risks of unemployment and homelessness in their adult lives.

The new course, offered at our Fletcher Residence supportive housing building in the Bronx, serves New Yorkers ages 18 to 24 who are in need of career training options and college alternatives. Participants are recruited and receive an initial eight-week course in employment readiness skills by Catholic Guardian Services, a nonprofit that offers an array of social services to vulnerable youth and families. 

The program consists of six weeks of intensive training in the kitchen, followed by a mandatory six-week internship at a restaurant, catering company or corporate dining services. Students learn cooking, baking, catering, and nutrition; and they graduate ready to take on careers in the culinary industry.

“With the success of our Culinary Arts Training Program, we were looking for ways to expand to help meet the needs of more New Yorkers,” said Barbara Hughes, co-founder and Director of the Culinary Arts Training Program at Project Renewal. “When Catholic Guardian Services approached us seeking food service training for their clients, we recognized the positive impact our program could have on these young adults.”

According to the New York City Public Advocate’s Office, of the nearly 1,000 people who age out of the foster care system annually, 80 percent are on their own—dealing with vital needs like housing, employment, healthcare, and education. Fifty percent struggle with unemployment and 18 to 26 percent live in homeless shelters.

Our Culinary Arts Training Programwhich first launched in Manhattan in 1995, serving New Yorkers who had struggled with homelessness, addiction and unemploymentplaces graduates in jobs at twice the rate of similar programs nationwide. In 2013, the program won one of the "Top 10 Innovative Nonprofit Awards" from New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity.

“With Project Renewal’s Culinary Arts Training Program, we saw an opportunity to expand our workforce development program for individuals formerly in or aging out of the foster care system,” said Ann McCabe, Catholic Guardian Services’ Assistant Executive Director for Child Welfare Services. “Thanks to Project Renewal, not only are these young adults getting the training they need, but also job placement assistance.”

The first students to complete this new track of the Culinary Arts Training Program in the Bronx graduated on March 3, 2016.

For more information about our Culinary Arts Training Program, visit www.projectrenewal.org/catp.

For more information about Catholic Guardian Services, visit: www.catholicguardian.org/.

 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Christal's Story

Breast cancer kills over 1,200 women each year in New York City. Christal could have been one of those women. 

But, thanks to our ScanVan, the nation’s first mobile mammography clinic, she’s alive and well. 

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Christal first came to the ScanVan at the recommendation of a friend. "I was amazed at the staff’s professionalism and persistence.  They always made sure I came back for my appointments," she says. Two years later, our radio technologist spotted something on Christal's mammogram and sent her for a biopsy. She had cancer.

"It was a scary time," Christal says. "My only thought was, 'I'm dead.'" 

Our staff worked closely with Christal to ensure she had the best possible care. We recommended a breast surgeon who performed a double mastectomy and removed her cancerous lymph nodes. "I wouldn’t be here today if not for Project Renewal," she says.

Too many women aren’t as fortunate. 

By making a gift today, you will help women like Christal and many others win the fight against breast cancer.

You can donate on our Crowdrise page: www.crowdrise.com/breastcancerawarenes9

Fletcher House Residents Make the Most of Summer

This summer, residents of Fletcher House–our Community Residence/Single Room Occupancy designed to help adult clients transition from chronic homelessness or long-term hospitalization to independent living–were given the opportunity to take a day trip to Six Flags Great Adventure.

The trip was organized and made possible by Fletcher House summer intern and Columbia graduate student Peiyi Woo. Peiyi set up a Crowdrise page and raised $1,000 to pay for the Six Flags trip and other successful summer outings for the residents, which included trips to the beach and the zoo.

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Fletcher House’s Resident Council, comprised entirely of volunteers, also helped to set up this trip and other trips throughout the summer. The excursions allowed residents to get out of the building and enjoy some beautiful summer days, without having to worry about having the money or means of transportation to make it possible.

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“Everyone came together and had a great time. We should organize every event the way we did for Six Flags,” wrote one resident on a post-event survey. Residents were given the chance to socialize and build a sense of community while having some fun. After the trip, they reflected on the day and thought of ways to make the next one even better. 

In a post-trip survey, all residents who went to the Six Flags trip said that the trip was well organized and that the staff and Resident Council made ample preparations for the trip. The residents also said that they received sufficient information through a pre-trip meeting, which was jointly organized by the staff and Resident Council.

Project Renewal would like to thank Peiyi and the Resident Council for all of their hard work and thoughtfulness, and everybody who contributed on the Crowdrise page for their generosity.

Future Leaders Volunteer

Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI) first got involved with Project Renewal in 2013 when the school invited our staff to speak to its 3rd graders about homelessness.

“The kids were confused about homelessness,” said Kerry Donahue, Co-Chair of LREI’s Parent Association Community Service Committee. “Some of them talked about being scared of homeless people they had seen, so it was great to have Project Renewal staff answer their questions.”

Inspired by what they learned, the students and their families made Thanksgiving baskets – filled with food, homemade cards, toys, and other goodies – for families in our En Casa supportive housing program. “This is going to be a real Thanksgiving,” said one En Casa mother, upon receiving her basket. “I want to make every holiday perfect for my daughter now that we’re in our new home.”

The baskets are now an annual project, but this year, the students didn’t stop there.  For their Martin Luther King Day of Service, LREI’s high school group held a drive to collect toiletries, energy bars and other items, which they assembled into 200 “Renewal Kits” – each with a handwritten note – for our mobile medical patients.

“These service projects are a great opportunity for the kids to talk about homelessness, while doing something constructive to help people in need,” said Donahue. “We want to keep the conversation going and continue to help.”

Van Honors Decades of Service

When long-time board member Jim Stevens heard that our decades-old medical van was in need of major repairs, he thought of a solution that would be a perfect way to honor his friend and fellow board member, Alan Belzer, for his 28 years of service to Project Renewal. Alan accepted under the condition that Jim’s 19 years of service also be honored. Together, they have graciously donated “The Alan and Jim Van,” a state-of-the-art medical van.

The new van will be the flagship of our mobile medical program, which now serves over 4,400 homeless and uninsured people annually, six days a week at 18 locations citywide. Between this program and our shelter-based clinics, we are the largest provider of health services for New Yorkers who are homeless.

“The van will be a fitting tribute to two people who have played an important role in Project Renewal being the citywide organization it is today,” said Project Renewal President & CEO Mitchell Netburn. “Through their tireless efforts, Alan and Jim have helped countless men and women who are homeless renew their lives and reclaim hope.”

Alan’s commitment to fighting homelessness started in the 1980s, when he saw scores of people sleeping on the streets of Manhattan. “It was terrible,” he says. “I would walk around saying to myself ‘this is the richest city in the richest country in the world. I have to do something.’”

When Alan heard about Project Renewal’s goal to expand services to include supportive housing for mentally ill, homeless New Yorkers, he knew it was the kind of innovative organization he wanted to support. Alan, along with Daniel Brodsky, helped lead the fundraising effort to buy a vacant lot in Midtown West, to build the Clinton Residence. The development opened in 1990 and continues to provide housing and comprehensive services to men and women who are chronically homeless and suffer from mental illness.

Jim’s compassion for people who are homeless was also fueled by what he saw in his neighborhood. In the 1980s and 1990s he lived near Bellevue Hospital and every night witnessed homeless men entering the psychiatric ward. It didn’t take much for Alan, who was chairman at the time, to convince his friend Jim to join the Project Renewal Board.

“What appealed to me was Project Renewal’s holistic approach to helping people in need, with healthcare, recovery and support services, job training, housing, and more,” Jim says. “The new van will be a key part of that mission by bringing quality care to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the resources to get it.”

Next Step VETS: Thomas' Story

Thomas served in the U.S. Navy for five years before returning home to Brooklyn. Like far too many veterans, he struggled. "I could only get dead-end jobs and barely made ends meet," he reflects.

Facing eviction after being laid off, Thomas joined Next Step VETS, our award-winning employment program for veterans. Our staff helped prepare him to land a better job and he soon had three interviews.

Today, Thomas has a full-time job at Beth Israel Hospital, and he plans to pursue a degree in nutrition. "This is the highest paying job I've ever had," he says. "It allowed me to stay in my apartment, and now I'm able to live the life I always wanted."

 

Safe Haven: Karen's Story

A successful teacher and artist from Seattle, Karen fulfilled a lifelong dream by moving to New York City. But she struggled to find work. Living in a hostel and running low on money, she became severely depressed. "I remember thinking the easiest solution would be to find a bridge and jump," she says. 

Karen came to our Safe Haven program where our staff put her on the path to renewal. "It was the first clean, stable place I had been in a long time," she remembers. "The director convinced me to stop worrying about a job and focus on my mental health."

Today, with a corporate job at a major real estate firm, Karen is a real New York success story. 

Culinary Arts Training Program Celebrates 20 Years of Success

Just five years ago, Regino described himself as “unemployable.” Today, he is a full-time line cook at a major corporate catering business. 

“I had to reinvent myself,” says the 50-year-old Manhattan resident.

Regino got the opportunity he needed to transform his life when his vocational counselor recommended our Culinary Arts Training Program (CATP). The award-winning program prepares at-risk New Yorkers who are unemployed and often homeless for entry-level culinary jobs.

Determined to achieve his goal of a steady and fulfilling career, Regino enrolled in CATP in 2010. After three-months of classroom training, he began his first culinary internship. “I treated it like it was a job,” Regino recalls.

His hard work paid off when his internship turned into a full-time position. Since then, Regino has been promoted three times. He attributes his success to his classroom and on-the-job training at CATP. “It’s a great opportunity and foundation,” he says. 

Meanwhile, Regino’s employer has continued to hire interns from CATP. “It’s a testament to Project Renewal’s program that my company gives the graduates these opportunities,” he says.

This year marks CATP’s 20th anniversary. The program places graduates in jobs at twice the rate of the national average for comparable programs, and there is now a separate track for veterans who are struggling to re-enter the job market.

Learn more about the Culinary Arts Training Program here.

We're Running the Marathon!

Project Renewal is proud to be an Official Charity Partner of the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon. Congratulations to our 2015 TCS marathon runners: Mark Baechle, John Conry, Charmaine Landicho, Jennifer Murray, Jillian Petrone, and Sarah Seeberger!

Meet the Team:

Mark Baechle is the husband of a Project Renewal employee and has volunteered in the Project Renewal kitchens numerous times. “I think Project Renewal is an amazing organization that enables people and gives them the opportunity to take their lives into their hands. I hope I can help raise awareness for it and support its cause.” The Switzerland native has been living in New York for 14 years and has always considered the marathon one of the city’s greatest events. This will be his first time running it. 

John Conry has been a consultant pharmacist for Project Renewal’s medical department for 13 years. He is a Clinical Professor of Pharmacy at St. John’s University in Queens. This will be his third time running the New York City Marathon. “The fact that I am running to fundraise for and bring attention to Project Renewal is making this marathon that much sweeter. Project Renewal is an organization that truly lives its mission.”

Charmaine Landicho has been working at Project Renewal for three years and was a volunteer for one year prior to her employment. She ran her first New York City Marathon last year as a personal challenge. “When I came to New York as an immigrant, I was given a chance to create a life I chose. Working at Project Renewal, I’ve come full circle: giving people a second chance regardless of their past is what we do and what I believe in. The more you donate the faster I'll run, that's a promise!”

Jennifer Murray was raised in Baltimore and moved to New York City three years ago. She feels that there is no better experience than running her first marathon. “My passion for this cause will fuel me to the finish line! It will be a personal achievement and unforgettable experience that I will carry forever. It’s the perfect way to pay tribute and thank my new home for consistently building my character.”

Jillian Petrone has been a dedicated volunteer at all Project Renewal special events for the past year. She was introduced to the organization through her sister, Kelsey Petrone, who is a staff member. She has completed one half marathon and has always considered running a hobby. “I am very excited to be running my first marathon and thrilled that the money raised will help those throughout all five boroughs. Project Renewal is an amazing organization that does incredible work in NYC!”

Sarah Seeberger is a runner who had applied to the New York City Marathon for the past four years, but never made the lottery drawing. “I never felt quite right in trying to get in through a charity, unless it was a cause that I could connect to,” she says. She realized a personal connection to Project Renewal’s work when she lost her father to a long battle with alcoholism and homelessness. “I loved my father for being the best that he could be for me as a daughter, and this is why I run for Project Renewal. Project Renewal is a charity that I can stand behind and support.”

Visit the Project Renewal Team Fundraising Page to learn more about the runners and help them reach their fundraising goals.