If you see Elbert Copeland out wearing a red uniform, he’s probably inspecting the streets to make sure they’ve been cleaned.
Copeland is a supervisor for ACE Programs for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization that trains and employs homeless New Yorkers.
He started out in the field sweeping and cleaning the streets, then the organization hired him to do “quality control.” “I just go around and make sure everything is nice, tidy and clean,” he said, “make sure there’s no complaints and everybody’s happy.”
Copeland said he was “down in the trenches” prior to getting in touch with ACE’s program.
“It put me back on the right track and gave me a new outlook,” he said. “It gave me a completely different way of thinking and train of thought.”
In the three years since he’s worked with ACE, Copeland considers himself a more compassionate person. His favorite part of the job is that he gets to see all of the different communities in New York City.
“Queens by far is the most complicated only because you can walk down one block and be somewhere else totally,” he said. “It’s a little confusing, but I’ll get it.”
Copeland, who now lives in Richmond Hill, said businesses often come out to thank him and his team for their work. Once residents and business owners see them a few times, they recognize their service.
“When you get one little thank you, it moves you on,” he said. “It keeps you going.
“We really try to do our best to change people’s lives,” he added. “You have to have something different you’re aiming for.”
When asked how long he plans to work for ACE, Copeland chuckled and said, “Until the day of my demise.”