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|August 1, 2005|
|Turning Lives Around|
by Live at Five
|SUE SIMMONS, co-anchor: It's a small start -- sweeping streets and emptying trash cans, but for the men in the blue uniforms, it's also a step in the right direction. |
* * *
PERRI PELTZ, co-anchor: In 1985, a woman without a home or a name froze to death in New York City. A nonprofit group named the Doe Fund was founded in her memory. The mission--to find permanent solutions to homelessness. So far, the fund has graduated more than 2,000 men, men who are no longer homeless.
Chances are you've passed these men on the streets, part of the New York City landscape, cleaning, sweeping, bagging garbage, trying to keep the city streets clean in an effort to keep themselves clean.
Mr. CRAIG TROTTA (The Doe Fund): I was stealing from my own family to get another hit of crack, and it was so bad that I wound up on the streets, living on the street, eating out of garbage cans and washing up in the fire hydrants.
PELTZ: Craig was a crack addict, as was William, hooked for 10 years. In and out of rehab, nothing worked.
Mr. WILLIAM WILLIAMSON (The Doe Fund Graduate): And when I got out, it was right back to the races, you know. Like, after you humiliated me so bad, the best thing I could do was crawl in the corner with a pipe and a stem and do it all over again.
PELTZ: Make yourself feel better.
Mr. WILLIAMSON: Yeah, yeah. That's what it was.
PELTZ: For William and Craig, sobriety came from the Doe Fund--a job and a place to live.
Mr. TROTTA: When I first went in the first day, I saw the guys in the blue uniforms coming back from work with their little bag of chicken wings and fried rice with smiles on their faces, so in my mind I said, 'Well, if they can do that, I could do it, too.'
Mr. GEORGE McDONALD (Executive Director, the Doe Fund): We can end homelessness.
PELTZ: Founder George McDonald says Doe's philosophy is simple--work in exchange for shelter and a paycheck. (Visual of Doe Fund logo) Break the rules and you're out of the program.
Mr. McDONALD: When you see homeless people laying on the street, you don't think that they're capable of doing anything. We put the lie to that. They are capable of doing something but you have to give them a structured opportunity.
Mr. WILLIAMSON: Just the process of it, of getting up every morning and getting on that van and going to the streets and then breaking out the buckets. We're making all this racket getting it together but, you know, it was me doing something positive.
PELTZ: William is in charge of maintenance at a New York City apartment building, a job he's held now for seven years. Craig runs Doe's citywide cleaning program.
Mr. TROTTA: I have a job to do, but the main part of the job for me is to see the guys in the blue uniforms get where I'm at. The only thing is I don't want them to get my job because I love my job.
PELTZ: William's been clean for seven years and says the best high he gets now is giving back to Doe by helping newcomers.
Mr. WILLIAMSON: Be happy with who you are, you know, and do your best. And no matter what you do, you know, that's definitely the message I give to my kids.
PELTZ: The Doe Fund claims that over half of the men who enter the program find private sector jobs, get their own apartments and stay drug-free, making the Doe Fund one of the most successful residential work programs in the nation. If you want to learn more about the Doe Fund, log onto our Web site at wnbc.com.
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