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December 1, 1994
86th Street Clean Up

by Karen Norden
A clean up effort is underway on East 86th Street sponsored by Ready, Willing and Able, a welfare-to-work program operated by The Doe Fund, Inc., a non-profit organization located on East 84th Street in Yorkville. The clean up project employs formerly homeless men who are participants in the program which moves single, homeless men out of the shelters and into private sector jobs and market-rate housing.

"The 86th Street clean up project demonstrates the potential of homeless New Yorkers to be productive and take personal responsibility," said George McDonald, the founder of The Doe Fund. "The key is to provide them with a meaningful opportunity to work." According to Mr. McDonaId, 72% of program graduates maintained their housing and employment at follow-up periods of up to three years. In addition, 85% of former participants who are fathers support their children financially.

Clad in bright blue jumpsuits and baseball caps, 12 formerly homeless men and two work crew supervisors are employed full-time, seven days a week cleaning up 86th Street. All employees are paid five dollars per hour and are provided with housing in The Doe Fund's residence in Brooklyn, N.Y. The clean up crews sweep the sidewalks and the curbsides and also pick up trash and litter. The goal of the project is to make the street cleaner and to provide a service to local businesses which must keep the area in front of their stores clean or face steep fines. The program started on November 16th and so far the response has been positive. "They clean the sidewalk and 18 inches into the street, which means they are doing my work for me," explained one local merchant. "I have no complaints!"

For the past five years the Ready, Willing and Able program work force has worked exclusively for the City of New York, mainly repairing broken down apartments in New York's poorer neighborhoods. City contracts provide the program with 70% of its operating budget. The 86th Street clean up effort was designed to attract businesses from the private sector, to expand the revenue base of the organization and to provide more jobs for the program participants. "We hope this will be the first of many working partnerships throughout the city in which the Ready, Willing and Able formerly homeless work force can provide a needed and appreciated service to many communities," Mr. McDonald said. "We believe programs like this can be expanded to serve the community and help the homeless. It completely turns their lives around."

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