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Success Stories

Program Name: Ready, Willing and Able
Program Focus: Homelessness
Geographic Area: New York/New Jersey
State: New York
City: New York

Executive Summary
Homelessness continues to be a major problem in the United States, and the cycle of homelessness leaves its victims lonely, depressed and helpless. A HUD-funded Ready, Willing and Able initiative is a paid work-training program for homeless single adults in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. The program is designed to help homeless men and women become productive members of society by providing them with the tools they need to succeed. Through extensive training and counseling, participants are empowered to achieve self-sufficiency.

The program, which was developed by George and Harriet McDonald and Alton Johnson, is extremely successful. In fact, Ready, Willing and Able has been instrumental in the transfer of 750 homeless men and women from the streets to self-supported housing. The program is unique in that it revolves around employment. Participants work 35 hours per week cleaning and providing maintenance services in the community. They earn minimum wage, and their earnings are used primarily to pay for room and board at a transitional housing facility. Additionally, participants must save at least $30 per week, an amount that is matched by the program. After a 9- to 18-month period, participants graduate to permanent, self-supported housing and full-time jobs that pay an average of $9 per hour.

Ready, Willing and Able also has a life-skills component in which participants receive educational, substance abuse, and pre-employment services. Training and counseling sessions are held during evenings and weekends so participants can take part effectively while holding full-time jobs. The life-skills classes include such subjects as culinary arts, construction, and job skills.

The services appear to be paying off, because the program boasts a 60 percent success rate for drug rehabilitation and 85 percent on five-year follow-ups to determine continued sobriety and employment.

Ready, Willing, and Able also has been able to garner impressive media coverage. The program was featured on the CBS series 60 Minutes, which profiled the program’s efforts to cleanup New York City’s upper west and east sides.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the program is its ability to change the lives of so many people. As a testament to the program’s success, 80 percent of the current staff of Ready, Willing, and Able are program graduates. These individuals broke the shackles of homelessness and joblessness to become vital members of the communities in which they live. And what’s more, they are giving back to the program that first gave them the tools to succeed.

George and Harriet McDonald and Alton Johnson

Financing: Various HUD funding sources.

Point of Contact: Harriet McDonald, Phone: (212) 249-5589, E-mail: harriet@doe.org

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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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