On Friday afternoon, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced that his office is now working with the Association of Community Employment (ACE) Programs for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization that provides job training and work experience for the homeless.
Armed with brooms and trashcans, ACE workers in their signature red uniforms will now provide additional cleaning services for Woodside, Long Island City and Dutch Kills.
Four years ago, Van Bramer’s office began a partnership with The Doe Fund, an organization that serves a similar purpose. But this year, The Doe Fund, whose workers sport blue uniforms, decided not to pursue grants to continue their work in the community.
Now, ACE will not only take their place, but expand the services.
“They not only will do the same routes, but they’re going to increase the level of service, which is incredibly important,” Van Bramer said. “We’re excited about the way they’ll do the work.”
Van Bramer is allocating the same $60,000 for the services. But according to ACE’s executive director Jim Martin, the workers in red are covering roughly 25 percent more ground.
Another difference, Martin said, is that ACE workers will be cleaning five days a week, eight hours a day. They’ve already been cleaning the streets for six weeks.
“The same men and women are here everyday, they’re going to be in the same routes,” he said. “They’ll be known by the shopkeepers and the folks who live and work in these neighborhoods.”
In about a month, ACE is also moving its headquarters from SoHo to Long Island City. They employ more than 75 people, with the majority of their staff providing cleaning services, doing outreach in homeless shelters, or working on education programs.
Delvon Sewer, an ACE worker who lives in Chinatown, is working on Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue in Long Island City. He said so far the neighborhood has been welcoming for him and his team. Shopkeepers have given them words of appreciation.
“It means a lot that I do something that makes people happy,” Sewer said. “Some people take notice that somebody’s cleaning the neighborhood and they appreciate that.”
Sewer was in the homeless shelter system before going through ACE’s program. He said the organization helped him “get back on my feet.”
“You don’t give up in life, you’ve got to pick up and strive forward,” Sewer said. “There are obstacles and things in front of you that try to stop you, but you still go on.
“I love it,” he added about his job. “I’m going to keep doing it.”