Formerly homeless New Yorkers will now help clean and maintain Queens’ Roosevelt Avenue

Photo by Angela Matua/QNS

Two former homeless New Yorkers will keep Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights clean for residents and visitors thanks to a state grant.

State Senator Jose Peralta announced on June 16 that a $75,000 state allocation will help the nonprofit Association of Community Employment Programs (ACE) give two full-time jobs to men who struggled with homelessness.

Louis Robertson and Robert Perez will help sweep streets along Roosevelt Avenue between 82nd and 90th streets. The men will officially begin their jobs on July 1 and will work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

“Before coming to ACE ― I’m a 57 year old man, I’ve been homeless for a while [and] I suffer from depression―my self esteem was very low,” Perez said. “ACE gave me that back. I’m now working. They’ve given me a job, they’ve given me hope.”

According to Peralta, this span of the thoroughfare was the only section not getting regularly cleaned. Robertson and Perez will sweep streets, remove garbage, change trash bags from garbage cans and help shovel snow during the winter.

“Roosevelt Avenue is a main artery that connects hard-working immigrant neighborhoods from Corona to Jackson Heights to Elmhurst and Woodside, and why not help improve this great avenue whenever we have an opportunity?” he said.

Peralta called the opportunity a win-win situation for Queens, adding, “we keep our streets clean for our neighbors and our visitors but at the same time, we help New Yorkers get back on their feet.”

ACE, a nonprofit created in 1992, has helped approximately 2,500 New Yorkers secure full-time jobs. The nonprofit runs initiatives such as Adult Basic Education, a vocational rehabilitation program, and gives participants access to affordable housing.

Jim Martin, executive director for ACE, said the organization “prides itself on helping folks who want help.”

“The journey from homelessness to self sustainability is a long one and we need as much help as we can to make that happen citywide,” he said. “The allocation and funds that are being given to ACE are not only going to keep these streets clean but will afford folks who partake in our program the ability to reclaim their lives through training, education and support.”

Robertson and Perez will work on Roosevelt Avenue through June 30, 2018. Robertson, who lives in the Bronx, says he has worked to help beautify many corridors around Queens including Metropolitan Avenue on the Glendale/Forest Hills border, and streets in Forest Hills and Jamaica through this program.

He has worked with ACE for three years and said the nonprofit has helped him deal with a changing job market. Through the organization, Robertson received his Occupational Safety and Health Administration license and his Commercial Driver’s License.

“I am truly grateful,” he said. “[ACE employees] extend their arm to you. No doors are locked.”

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