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October 3, 2013
The Doe Fund?s CORE program gives young men hope

by Cyril Josh Barker

The Doe Fund began its Creating Opportunity Reinforcing Education (CORE) program earlier this year after the organization saw a spike in young men coming to the organization. The program gives homeless men between the ages of 18 and 26 a shelter and pays them to earn their GED.

Known around the city for the “men in blue” who are paid to clean the streets and the “Ready, Willing and Able” program, the Doe Fund is a residential workforce development program that serves close to 1,000 men per day. The program was started by George McDonald in the 1980s to help homeless men get their lives on track going through the nine- to 12-month program.

However, over the last three years, the Doe Fund has seen an increase of young men coming to the program. Officials believe that it’s a result of youth affected by the crack epidemic of the 1980s and aging out of the foster care system.

“The CORE program was started to address the needs of young men coming into the DOE Fund,” said the organization’s communications manger, Madeline Kaye. “We emphasize education, and the work load is a little bit lighter. The clients receive GED prep in-house and they get paid to go to class.”

The young men also take classes in computers, financial management and job readiness. During the program, they live at the Doe Fund shelter. While the men work two days a week and go to class three days a week, the Doe Fund also offers moral recognition therapy to change the mindset of the young men.

Thirty percent of CORE students are fathers, 26 percent of CORE students are from foster care and 98 percent of all Doe Fund clients are men of color. The nonprofit gets it money from donors through fundraising.

Thomas Perry manages the Doe Fund’s Peter Jay Sharp Center for Opportunity in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where 50 young men are currently going through the program. The center has 400 beds for its homeless clients, who are referred to the Doe Fund by the Department of Homeless Services.

“The average age of men we work with is 37, but about two or three years ago, we were averaging 50 to 80 young men at one time. A lot of them suffered from abusive homes and crime and dodged death. We wanted to take serious steps to address this population,” he said.

The young men live among the older clients, which creates a sense of brotherhood, Perry added. He also said that since the CORE program has been put in place, more people are taking advantage of GED classes. Clients can also take certification courses after completion in order to get jobs paid by for by the Doe Fund.

Eric Jackson Jr., 24, has been in the CORE Program for five months and said that prior to coming to the Doe Fund, he was involved in crime; he was selling drugs at the age of 15 and moving between unstable homes in New York and South Carolina and was getting into trouble. He said the program changed his life. He wants to earn his commercial driver’s license.

“I’ve taken advantage of the computer program and financial management classes,” he said. “Since I have been here, I have [had a] vision and [am] moving toward my next goal.”

Former college student Demarkus Catron, 21, from Memphis, Tenn., has been in the CORE program for six months. He moved to New York after his mother died and had to take care of his sister. His life started to crumble when he lost his job at a local restaurant. Catron said that while working on the street, he met a Doe Fund alum who now owns his own pest control company, and that inspired him to stay strong.

“The guy told me, ‘This bucket changed my life’, and to pick my head up and that it gets greater later. I want to go back to college and earn my degree and go into audio production,” he said.

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