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November 28, 1996
Teach them to work

by George McDonald
Manhattan: Re the editorial "Welfare works when you do." (Nov. 15) and E.R. Shipp's column "The gov's plan and society's welfare" (Nov. 19): For six years, I have operated a successful residential work and training program, called Ready, Willing & Able, for formerly homeless individuals. It requires that participants give up welfare benefits and abandon drugs and alcohol. It employs them in revenue-generating microbusinesses, randomly drug tests them and provides substance-abuse counseling, job-skills training and literacy classes. Work indeed works, but work alone will not work.

Imposing work requirements without teaching these individuals how to work and how to maintain a job -- and drug testing without providing rigorous rehabilitation services -- would be like sending our children to school only on exam day. Comprehensive job training must be accompanied by services that address obstacles to employment, such as addiction and illiteracy. In rewriting welfare laws, I propose the government learn from nonprofits and successful programs that serve and actively train, educate and equip people to fulfill expectations.

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