By Naeisha Rose
After the 2012 Superstorm Sandy, Sean Perry lost his belongings, his girlfriend and his home in Far Rockaway, but despite all that his life changed for the better because of the Build It Back Workforce1 program, which helped him to move forward with his life and off the floor in his mother’s house.
Perry and his girlfriend moved to Far Rockaway after the home that they shared in Staten Island caught on fire 2 ½ years ago before Sandy. But as their new home got rocked by the storm, so did their already shaky six-year relationship.
What Perry didn’t anticipate with the dissolution of his relationship was that it meant he would be homeless.
“I was alright with our relationship being over because I was tired of it, but my name was not on the lease, so I didn’t get anything from FEMA,” Perry said. “I had a couple of outfits and I would sleep on my mother’s floor and at my friend’s house.”
Before the superstorm Perry became comfortable with his unstable and infrequent per diem freelance jobs as newspaper distributor for the New York Post and as an event promoter, but after becoming homeless he knew it was time to push himself career-wise.
“Between having food stamps and the two jobs, I got complacent with the little bit of money and just living,” Perry said.
As the oldest of five children, there was no space for him at his mother’s house after the storm.
Not wanting to stay on his mother’s floor or occasionally at a shelter, Perry pulled out of his slump and started looking for work.
“I heard Workforce1 was giving people jobs and I went there and found out there was something for construction skills training,” Perry said. “I learned it places people in unionized construction jobs and I was like, “Wow.” Usually if you don’t know someone in a union, you can’t get in.”
In the summer of 2016 he received lessons on how to build walls, paint, work with sheet rock and familiarize himself with construction tools while observing professionals at work and doing small projects in Long Island City.
Although he missed out on the first deadline to become a sheet metal apprentice that summer, he managed to join the apprentice program Jan. 19, and by next year he will be considered a second-term apprentice.
Perry intends to finish all nine terms of apprenticeship and make sheet metal work his career.
“After all those terms you become a mechanic or a journeyman,” Perry said. “I feel blessed to get this union job through Workforce1. It’s a rare situation and most people don’t know about this opportunity.”
Perry met a new girlfriend after hurricane Sandy and is married now. They have had their own place in Far Rockaway since 2016 and he will turn 33 next week.
“When you hit the bottom of the bottom, you have to put the work in and want for more. There is more in life then what you are offered”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose