Out of luck, out of hope, arrested and turning to substance abuse because at least escape from reality is an escape from hopelessness of living on the streets. What is it like to be so desperate, lonely and afraid? Afraid that you won’t be able to even provide the basic necessities for survival such as give yourself food and a roof over your head. Many of us are fortunate that we have a steady job or income that provides the basics. For some of those less fortunate who have lost their way, lost their hope and are looking for a life line, there is the Association of Community Employment Programs for the homeless or “ACE” (ok, they forgot the P, but it doesn’t rhyme as nicely). ACE isn’t for everyone. Those individuals who have the desire and will power to commit to restructuring their lives and getting back on the level path of empowering themselves, utilizing their brains and work ethic, it is for them.
”On a summer morning in 1992, Henry Buhl (founder) was leaving his loft on Greene Street in SoHo, when a local homeless man asked him for $20. He figured: if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. So Henry offered the man a job sweeping the sidewalk in front of his building, and then rallied the stores on his block to do the same. This was the beginning of Project Comeback, which empowers homeless charities and New Yorkers to donate and get homeless people off the street.”
In 2011, businesses backing ACE with donations such as: H&M, Prada, Museum of Modern Art (Rockefellers), Jimmy Choo, Space NK, La Esquina, Dos Caminos, Kate Spade, Cipriani, Longchamps, Hugo Boss, Addidas, Issey Miyake to the Mercer Hotel, Crosby Street Hotel, Thompson Hotel and generous supporters such as: Andre Balasz (Standard Hotels, Boom Boom Room, LeBain), Steven Tanger (Tanger Outlets) and Denise Rich (come on, if you don’t know her then you are clueless). With celebrity hosts for their events: Todd English, Hana Nitsche, Tim Morehouse and others. It is no wonder why this organization is just now receiving more attention and tremendous momentum.
It’s not all glamour, with the big names and champagne charities. ACE has helped turn the lives around from people who have been incarcerated, abused substances and gone down the darker path of society. Jim Martin, Executive Director of ACE said in a group meeting, “We interview candidates and take only those individuals who are serious about change who have shown our board a strong will to succeed and alter their lives. This is not a one step process to enter our program. We need to make sure the individuals we support are also supporting us in order to obtain successful outcomes for both sides.”
From what I have seen, the streets are cleaner and even seem safer since their team hits the downtown neighborhoods at night as well. Maire O’Malley, Director of Development said, “Fashion Night Out was a big job for us. It is our dedicated team, not the city, coming out to clean up after big nights and events. Many people don’t realize how different Soho, (Nolita, Bowery, Noho, Tribeca, West Village, Union Square) might look if we weren’t there to implement these programs which benefit the community AND individuals who are on the front line, sweeping the streets.”
As a downtowner, I have to say, there is a HUGE segment of the city that does still look like a dump with papers and wrappers all over the curbs and sidewalk. There is a difference from where ACE is implementing its program and where there is none.
In this economy where money is tight and people are not sure where to allocate funds, unsure of which charities put the money to work and which just put it to work for their own bank account. I can assure you that ACE puts the capital to work for the programs that they have developed and continue to nurture. The individuals who’s lives they have changed are a testament to that fact, not just the cleaner streets and big names behind them. If you would like to know more about ACE please visit www.acenewyork.org and find out how you can help.