A New York City-based non-profit recently honored a crop of homeless individuals who are now celebrating a new lease on life.
The Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless (ACE), a leading provider of workforce development and social support services for New Yorkers who are experiencing homelessness honored their new graduating class from ACE’s vocational rehabilitation program, Project Comeback.
On May 26th, 2022, ACE held a graduation ceremony at the Museum of the Moving Image honoring 150 individuals who have overcome histories of homelessness, incarceration, and addiction and secured employment through ACE’s vocational rehabilitation program. According to the organization, the Project Comeback program empowers the most vulnerable New Yorkers with the essential job and life skills, as well as therapeutic counseling to resolve trauma caused by homelessness, incarceration, and addiction and make a full transition to economic independence.
The new graduates secured employment in sectors like maintenance, sanitation, hospitality, health, driving, and more. Many graduates were hired by ACE’s social enterprise, which provides supplemental sanitation and beautification throughout the five boroughs of New York City. ACE employs over 100 individuals who have the most extreme barriers to employment. The team cleans and beautifies over 1,750 New York City blocks every day, keeping the city clean and safe for millions of residents and visitors.
ACE is a partner of NYC Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, whose office was represented at the event. “ACE is a fantastic community partner that has worked with me and my Council colleagues to beautify major corridors in our districts,” said Speaker Adams. “Equally important is their empowerment of New Yorkers who have endured homelessness, incarceration, or addiction through job training and opportunities. I congratulate ACE’s program participants on their graduation and wish them well on the next step in their journey.”
ACE uses a trauma-informed approach to Workforce Development. Many participants and graduates suffered difficult circumstances during the pandemic. Chiekh D., a graduate who spoke at the event, shared his experience with ACE saying “ACE is helping me and my family with my recovery. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. At ACE, I have recovery and I have financial freedom. It was difficult for me to work because of my addiction, but today here I am [employed]. I’ve been sobered up for two years. I had a tight friendship with alcohol, but thank God that friendship is broken. Now, ACE has become family.”
The Graduation Ceremony culminated with all 150 Graduates’ enrollment in Project Stay, ACE’s lifetime aftercare program, in which staff helps the newly employed individuals transition to self-sufficiency, maintain their jobs, and increase their earning capacity through supportive services like advanced training, counseling, individualized case management, financial incentives and much more.
ACE Executive Director James Martin said, “All the graduates have been so incredibly resilient to get here, in the most difficult circumstances. The graduates looked out for each other and they have proven to be an incredible group. During the darkest days of the pandemic, the ACE participants and graduates didn’t blink. They overcame so much. For those at ACE who keep our city clean every day— you showed bravery and it was you who kept this city going and kept this city safe. “
ACE’s next event will be a fundraiser at the Bowery Hotel Terrace on June 8th. All proceeds from the event will provide life-changing opportunities to New Yorkers in need. Tickets and information can be found at www.acenewyork.org