As Robert Perez helps to beautify Jackson Heights, he’s getting a chance at a clean slate.
“Before I came to this program, I was a mess. Legal problems, I was homeless. I had really no hope,” said Perez.
Perez is referring to the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless or ACE. It’s a work experience program designed to give homeless people a new lease on life.
Perez says getting paid to clean the streets helped raise his self-esteem.
“I didn’t care before, now you know I want to do something good. I’m an older guy, you know they say it’s never too late, but it gets to be a little too late. But they’re giving me hope,” said Perez.
It goes beyond just employment. ACE also offers job training and certifications.
“Things they’re going to add to their tool box, their employment toolbox it’s going to make it easier for them to transfer from this job street sweeping, to something higher paying and a little more competitive,” said Jim Martin, the executive director of ACE.
State Senator Jose Peralta gave ACE a $75,000 grant Friday. It’ll be used to hire two workers, to clean the stretch of Roosevelt Avenue between 82nd Street and 90th Street. Peralta calls it a win-win for the workers restarting their lives, as well as the community.
“It improves not only first impressions of visitors that come here in this area, that are many that come and eat at our ethnic restaurants but at the same time, it helps those individuals who live here and make them feel proud to see that our streets are clean,” said Peralta, who represents the area.
That’s pride Perez can certainly relate to. He says he’s become more aware of what littering does to a neighborhood.
“I’m a proud New Yorker and I want the city to be clean. It looks a lot better,” said Perez.
And Perez says, thanks to ACE, his future looks a lot better too.
Video and report courtesy of NY1