PROGRAM TO HELP THE HOMELESS CELEBRATES GRADUATION

"I have a past, but I'm looking towards the future," said Project Comeback graduate Douglas Rucker as he took the stage at the TriBeCa Film Center to receive his certificate during the graduation ceremony on Friday.

Project Comeback is a program run by sister organizations: the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless (A.C.E.), the SoHo Partnership, and the TriBeCa Partnership. The program is intent on aiding New York City's homeless men and women in re-entering the workforce and giving them the tools necessary to maintain economic self-sufficiency. Unlike other programs, Project Comeback requires its participants to work by cleaning the streets of SoHo and TriBeCa. In return the program offers a variety of classes, including substance abuse workshops, job-readiness workshops and one-on-one counseling. They also provide a life-long safety net that has resulted in outstanding success.  

Since 2006, 87% of the participants have remained employed for two years or longer.

Project Comeback founder, Henry Buhl, was unfortunately stricken with the flu and unable to attend. In his place, Executive Director of A.C.E Jim Martin hosted the ceremony. "This is a joyous occasion," said Martin. "It is the point in their rehabilitation where [participants] can obtain and sustain success."

John Ellert, Intake/ Case Manager and Harvey Semler, Job Development, were also there to lend words of support. "The only thing between you and the top of the ladder is the ladder," said Ellert.

Closest to the graduates were the Senior Crew Supervisors, Steve Martin (Senior Supervisor), Denise Braggs (who also was a past graduate of the program) and Robert Bowman. Martin, Braggs, and Bowman worked one-on-one with the graduates and were visibly touched by their milestone.

Martin and Braggs had the honor of handing out the Senior Crew Award to those graduates who were credited with going "above and beyond the route," to Mackiel Humes and Veronica Harrison.

Other graduates included Douglas Rucker, Quinten Bridgeforth, Ricardo Rodriguez, Katrina Jordan, Anita Hardy, Marvin Agee, Venetio Pullins, Felicia Stanley, Tony McKinnon, Teresea House, Norman James, Ramell Mitchell, Maria Pagan, and Eric Miles.

Graduate Norman James, in recovery for substance abuse, was grateful for his new circumstances—including current employment. "Sweeping the streets was a humbling experience, to do it with pride and quality is even more humbling."
 James added, "I've taken so much from the community. It's sincere and it makes sense—I want to give back."

At the end of the ceremony Coordinator Elizabeth McNierney talked about Project Stay, a program intent on offering graduates added support and resources for staying employed and helping them climb the rungs to build their new lives.

For more information on Project Comeback and Project Stay go to www.sohonyc.org.