See some of the success stories from the HELP USA Heroes book below.
"I've learned that I can hold a job and take care of my family. I can be whatever I want to be.
It doesn't take much; just a little will power. And someone standing behind me."
- Jennifer Ramos, Graduate of HELP Works Employment Program
Mother, Educational Coordinator for HELP's Genesis Homes
Genesis Tenant Advisory Board
I became homeless eleven years ago after our home burned down. I was living with my mother who was suffering with pancreatic cancer and I had just completed a rehab program for a long-standing substance issue. When I was forced to enter the emergency homeless system with my daughter, son and mother, it was the most devastating time in my life.
But God was watching over us. While at the shelter, I led recovery groups and was recommended for HELP's Genesis Homes. A brand new beautiful permanent apartment complex in East New York Brooklyn. It was the best thing that could have possibly happened.
The first time I saw Genesis Homes, I couldn't believe my eyes- it was beautiful and clean with a park and a playground in the center courtyard.
At Genesis, I was able to use the daycare and social service program to support my family and get myself together. The caring staff aided in continued recovery, and today, I run recovery groups on site for community members.
But just as things were coming together, I suffered the greatest loss of my life. My teenage son left Genesis one afternoon to play with the kids in one of the public housing projects. I will never forget the electrifying hug he gave me when he said goodbye. I replied, "be careful." Hours later he was shot and murdered by a local gang member. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And then more tragedy... Five months later my mother died. Somehow I persevered, I had my brother and daughter to care for, my sobriety and a new lease on life at Genesis. I continued my education and earned my BA from The College of New Rochelle.
I was then hired at HELP One Family Homeless Residence, Andrew Cuomo's original program and the first of its kind in New York State. I have been so happy to have been able to work with the organization that has saved my life. Today, I am working at Genesis Homes as the Educational Coordinator of the after school program, and I will be completing my Maters in social work from Fordham University, May 20, 2003
I am proud to say that I am the first person in my family to earn a degree.
Now I am in the position of giving back to my community!
GOD BLESS GENESIS!
Father, HELP Employee
Graduate of HELP's Engineering Building Management Training Program
Former Resident of HELP Crotona
After years together, my wife and I divorced. She moved to Florida with my three children and I remained in New York where I worked for a catering company.
My wife tried to be a good mother, working two jobs to help our kids. I never expected to receive a telephone call informing me that my children were removed from my wife's care and impending entry into foster care and that I had to retrieve them immediately.
Unfortunately, their mother became out of control both physically and abusively. After one dangerous episode of violence when she hurt our son badly (hitting him repeatedly with an electrical wire) he turned to his mentor for support. The mentor reported his mother to the authorities.
I know this act of abuse is horrible and completely unacceptable. However, I believe my ex-wife was a good mother and will be again.
She just couldn't deal with the stress- of working so hard and caring for three kids. The children are 15,12,11 and a lot to handle- although they are good, smart kids.
But more, tough times came ahead.
Just like the children, I moved in with my mom who had a larger apartment and began to get settled. My company downsized and I was fired. I immediacy started looking for work and at the same time the building we lived in was sold. Now I had three kids, was suffering emotionally through difficult transition, had no job and no place to live. I was just glad I still had my mother.
Reporting for emergency housing was, next to my children's abuse, the lowest experience in my life. The emergency assistance office in the Bronx was inhumane.
Finally, and luckily, we were sent to HELP Crotona. After what we had experienced, it was a dream. Caring staff helped my children deal with their psychological and emotional trauma through counseling, I aspired to enroll in HELP's Engineering Building Management Training Program to find a better paying job.
I also have a new aspiration, which is to help other people who are going through what I have experienced. I see how effective we are on HELP's Resident Council, (which I am apart of)-supporting each other and advocating in Albany and Washington. We actually just traveled to Albany and met with legislators. I have learned that we are agents of change- that we can shape our own futures. HELP Crotona gave me my life back!
"HELP's Job training program gave me a sense of direction and put me on the right track. I'm paving the way for my children and want them to know how to stand on their own two feet. I never want to be on welfare again."
- Stephanie Waters, Welfare-to-work program participant
"The HELP Works Building Maintenance Training Program was very helpful in teaching me skills. I didn't have in the fields of plumbing, electrical, carpentry and floor maintenance. I would recommend it because it was a good experience for anyone who wants to learn skills, and get a job."
- James Williams, HELP graduate, Janitor
Father, Technician at Skadden Arps
Graduate, HELP Works Computer Training Program
Former Resident of HELP Bronx
Michael Warren and his family were homeless last year. Yet, last month, he began work at Skadden, Arps, one of the city's most prestigious law firms, as a technician in the digital printing department. Today, Warren, 35, is living in his own apartment in Queens with his wife and eight-year-old son and directs the firm's high-volume graphic editing projects.
Warren and his family were forced to enter into the city's shelter system when overcrowding left them homeless. The family was placed at HELP USA's Bronx Crotona site. It was there that Warren pursued training opportunities with HELP USA's subsidiary, TECH·U·NET, a provider of technology solutions to nonprofit and government organizations. TECH·U·NET recently formalized its innovative internship program, offering selected HELP USA clients like Warren 13 weeks of training classes and an additional 13 weeks of on-the-job training in preparation for jobs within the growing information technology industry.
Warren's participation in the internship program led him to understand the importance of goal completion, even if doing so requires temporary sacrifice. "I never realized what planning can do for you," he explained. While the program left Warren less time with his family, he was able to forge a more hopeful path for their future.
Both the technical training and the practical nature of TECH·U·NET's program proved to be a valuable experience for Warren. "The program gives you real-life experience and makes
During the final two weeks of training, TECH·U·NET's staff walked participants through the job-search process, encouraging them to submit resumes and cover letters on-line and to follow up with prospective employers. Warren took full advantage of this support and was soon offered his current position. Warren has found the firm to be very encouraging of its employees and is already working to advance within his department in order to deal more directly with technical computing issues.
Husband, Father,Citibank Service Manager
Former Resident of Westhelp Greenburgh
My story began almost five years ago, when my wife Irene and I decided to move to the U.S. from Canada, with our six month old girl, in search of a better life, of better opportunities. We moved here, penniless, homeless, and to a certain degree hopeless, not speaking a word of English. After spending eleven days with a friend, she had enough and politely asked us to move somewhere else. We had no other friend, no place to go to, no relative to call.
After leaving church one Sunday morning, we asked for help, and someone advised us to go to the DSS (the Department of Social Services). That's exactly what we did at the very first hour the following day. After going through questioned and a very lengthily process, the Department of Social Services accepted our request of temporary assistance and sent us to a shelter in Greenburgh. We spent approximately three and a half weeks in the emergency shelter and we were then transferred to Westhelp-Greenburgh.
We spent a couple of weeks in the West help facilities in Greenburgh, before being moved to Peekskill, in the "supportive housing" program. What is really important to know is that, not only have we been offered shelter, but also equally important, Westhelp continuously monitored our job search, through their "job development" program, and also continuously encouraged us to seek education and to always keep our resume up to date. All this assistance helped me find a job at a discount store in White Plains, while I was working for eight months, I began to take some English classes.
One morning in June 1999, we received a phone call from a HELP Job Developer/Counselor, informing us of a job opening at Citibank in Peekskill just three miles away from where we live. That very same morning, I went to Citibank and had an interview. Everything went well, and I got the job as a teller. And approximately at the same time Irene found a job as a Home Health Aide.
What is SO GREAT, SO AMAZING about this program, is the WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY it gives their clients. It allows them to save money. With a little bit of discipline you can save big time. And that is exactly what we did.
Without this program, there is no way we could have done what we did, for sure, not so quickly or so painlessly. Three years after we've been accepted in the program; Irene and I had two more lovely children, Irene became a nurses aide and went back to school for her bachelor degree in nursing, I started an MBA in finance at Pace University, I have been promoted to the Service Manager position at Citibank in Bedford, NY, and last but not least, believe me, we bought our first home, a two family house in Peekskill, just a couple of months ago! We bought it from the landlord.
We decided to give something back to Westhelp. And one of the things we could do was rent one of the apartments to the agency.
That is what we proudly did.
We did it because we faithfully, we deeply believe and trust what they do. They are very good at what they do.
Westhelp changes peoples lives, and in doing so it helps build better communities.
Thank you, Thank you, Very much.
You guys are great at what you do!
God Bless You!
God Bless America!
"He hits you And kicks you and screams that it's your fault.
So you've got to leave. But he supports you. So you've got to stay...
I've learned that I can hold a job and take care of my kids.
I can be what ever I want to be. It doesn't take much;
just a little will power and people standing behind me."
- domestic violence survivor and former HELP resident
"The Women's Support Group at HELP Harbor made me feel at last, that I was not alone.I gained self-esteem there. After being homeless, I am so happy to have my own apartment, and a job. I can take care of my children now."
- domestic violence survivor and former HELP resident
"He was Mr. Wonderful for a year, and then things started happening. He isolated me. He didn't want me working. He didn't want me to have friends.
What I needed was a safe environment for myself and for my kids and the potential to grow again... to get out into the world...into society, to work, to gain independence so I could care for my kids."
- domestic violence survivor and former HELP resident
Mother, Caseworker Concord Family Services
1st Vice Chair Genesis Tenant Advisory Board
In August 1992 I moved into the Genesis Community from the Saratoga Family Inn located in Queens. There I had completed an eighteen-month drug rehabilitation program, called the Phoenix House Portal Program. This program was for women with children or pregnant women. I had a healthy baby girl and part of my discharge plan was that I leave with the custody of my other child who was in kin-ship foster care and also to have housing.
The housing specialists showed me a newspaper article about HELP Homes taking applications for formally homeless families. I have lived at Genesis homes for ten years and some months. As a tenant I was part of the tenant group that re-named HELP HOMES to Genesis Homes. Why Genesis? It represented a new beginning for all, formally homeless and the low to moderate-income families.
I have been apart of all kinds of programs at Genesis; Day Care, organizing tenants to help out with the summer breakfast and lunch program and being a member of the Tenant Advisory Board for about seven years serving as vice chair.
After completing the HOPE program at Genesis Homes, which was a job readiness course. My extended internship with Concord Family Services, Inc. turned into a part time job, which became a full time job with benefits. Here it is seven years later and I am still employed by Concord Family Services. I am a member of Community Board 5; I chair on the Sanitation/ Environment committee and I am also a CB5 executive board member and -recording secretary.
Thank you HELP USA. Thank you HOPE.
Thank you Mrs. Lelar Floyd ED of Concord Family Services,
Thank you Community and most of all thank you to my family.
Remember when you have GOD in your life and people praying for you all things are possible.
"I was looking for an apartment and I found a life."
- Stan Tarnaki, Genesis Apartments, Union Square
"When I got here, I said: "oh, my Lord! Someone has lost their mind in the middle of East New York!
Not only do I have a nice apartment in a beautiful setting but a chance to have input into the affairs of how the place is operated. And my neighbors and I have responsibility for our actions."
- Debra Brown, Genesis Homes, East New York Brooklyn
Mother, Student College of New Rochelle, Housing Specialist
Genesis Homes Tenant Advisory Board
June 1, 2003 will make eleven years that my family has resided at Genesis Homes in East New York Brooklyn. Being a tenant of Genesis Homes has been a great experience in my life. There are so many things that I accomplished while residing at Genesis.
For instance, when I moved into Genesis I was twenty-four with four children and a drop out of high school. Through the support of friends and the many services that were offered on site I was able to return to school to secure my GED one of the childcare providers at on site at Genesis Homes took care of my children while I attended school. When I wasn't in school I Participated in TEPP (Tenant Equity Participation Plan). TEPP was an onsite program that allowed the tenants to come together and help maintain the up keeping of the building, for which they received a stipend. TEPP provided work experience for those who never worked and added experience to those who were working.
Genesis now has the WAY (Work alternative for youth) program on site. The WAY program is similar to TEPP, but for children in the community. It keeps the children in the community out of trouble, by giving them jobs. It allows the children to gain work experience and responsibility.
Now eleven years later, I secured my GED, Associates Degree, and I am scheduled to graduate from The College of New Rochelle with my Bachelor Degree. I have been an employee of HELP USA for five years. I started as a Safety Monitor; I'm now a housing Specialist, and looking forward to becoming a Supervisor someday.
HELP's Genesis Apartments
A year ago, I felt pretty much hopeless. I felt that I was in a bad situation. I was living in a shelter and I wasn't going to ever leave it. And now it's one short year later and life is pretty good. I mean I have a job now; I'm no longer on public assistance. And it's through Genesis, I believe, that I have what I have now. My son is in a beautiful new daycare center.
You ride the elevators and everybody knows each other. You're in Manhattan but you'd never really know it there is a sense of community, a very big sense of community and we're all in this together pretty much. So if your kid is messing up the hall, everybody id going to have to pay for it. So everybody tries to make sure that they're doing everything we can.
A lot of the reasons why I'm no longer on public assistance has a lot to do with Genesis because if I wasn't there... I can't imagine where I would be. It's really kind of hard to explain, but the hopelessness I felt, that I rally couldn't get a job, I could work at MacDonald's but I still wouldn't be able to support myself. I wouldn't be able to support my child and pay rent. And now, you know I have a decent little job. And here we have daycare right in the building for infants and toddlers, from three months to three years, and then there's a Head Start program for 3- to 5- year olds.
Look, this does work! All these people that the neighbors were so scared of, and now taxpayers just like the neighbors are. I mean we're doing the same things they are. We're contributing to the economy, we're working. You know, it's like how could you stop something like that.
HELP's Genesis Apartments
Genesis Apartments is a beautiful building. It makes you feel that you didn't have a bad past. It makes it so easy to forget that because now, when you come home, and you walk into the building, you feel protected, there's security, you don't have to worry about intruders.
At Genesis, they keep you active to the point where you want to stay motivated to success. They create so many opportunities here for us through networking, and just fellowshipping with the tenants to look out for each other. They generate an interest. I think with such a support system you can't fail. The only way you can fail is if you don't want to succeed.
Aunt, Administration for Children Services
Chairperson Genesis Tenant Advisory Board
I have been a member of the Genesis community since July 1992. I moved in with my nephew Shawn, who was seven years old at the time. His mother (my niece) had a substance abuse problem. My nephew stayed with me for two years. After this time with me he was reunited with his father, Shawn will be eighteen soon and is doing well. I have been the Chairperson of the Genesis Tenant Advisory board for the past eight years, and have been actively involved in many tenant and community programs. I have been apart of numerous since living here.
I have enjoyed being apart of this growing community. I have established some lifelong relationships and in the process we have and will continue to work together for the good of Genesis Homes. I have worked for the City of New York for the last twenty-two years. I currently work for the Administration for Children's Services. My unit establishes eligibility for Federal and State reimbursements.
Student at Jefferson High School
Youth Member of the Genesis Tenant Board Association
I have been a resident at Genesis Homes for almost eight years now. My mother, my two brothers and I moved from a shelter, which was located in the South Bronx. Growing up mainly seeing things for what it was and not being able to change it community- wise frustrated me.
The violence grew in my community. I wanted to stop it by trying to create a program that would keep my peers (that were main factors of the) well occupied by trying to put them on sports teams and sometimes leading by example doing positive things.
One day, someone gave me advice to try talking to the Genesis Tenant Board Members about what I wanted to start, so I spoke to Mr. Tillman, who was well known and respected man in the community. He advised me to join the Tenant Board so my voice would be heard. I am now running my program with the support of the Tenant Board.
Mother, Housing Case Worker
Genesis Tenant Advisory Board
I moved into Genesis Homes from October 1992 from a shelter called Women in Need. While living in Genesis Homes, I took the opportunity that they offered tenants there. I got involved with the Genesis Homes Advisory Board. I have been on the Board for the last six years. Now, I am still involved with the Board and tenants. Today, I work for Camba, as an Eviction Prevention Caseworker.
Genesis Advisory Board
The reason I came to live at Genesis Homes was, my need to be closer to my twin sister and my health.
I am a mother of four, with two children at home. The fact is, that Genesis Homes has lots of services to offer for a housing development. For example, a doctor's office, daycare, after school programs and an enclosed court yard just to name a few. Genesis greatest feature for me is it's court yard and benched, this makes mothers hours from 9am-3pm just lovely. Nice and quiet.
I've lives art Genesis Homes for about four years now. And for the most part it's been great. Since I'm unable to work when I'm feeling good, I give my time to community service. I sit on the Tenant Advisory Board and chair the political Action Committee at Genesis Homes. I am also a member of the local democrat Club and I chair their Health Committee. I am a member of the executive board of the Ronald Brown Democrat Club. I also participate in STD/HIV workshops for a variety of groups, and am a member of SUNY Downstate STAR Community Advisory Board for WIHS (Women's Interagency HIV Study) women. I also represent this local CAB on the NCAB for WIHS women.
HIS is a research study that studies the natural history of its participants from the time of entry to the study till death. This study is being done in five states in the United States.
" I think it is truly a blessing that in these times when so many people are homeless and hopeless, organizations like HELP USA offer programs to help people like myself get back into the mainstream of society."
- James Clapso, HELP Graduate