Lance moved to New York City with his mother and father when he was seven. He had a middle-class upbringing and was never worried about financial insecurity. “My dad made good money as an accountant. I never imagined growing up that I could be homeless.”
Lance graduated high school and immediately wanted to start working. He got a job as a bike messenger for a firm on the 86th floor of World Trade Center One. On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Lance locked up his bike and entered a deli across the street from the World Trade Center. As he put in his usual breakfast order, he was jarred by a series of explosions.
“Oh my God, a plane hit the World Trade Center”
I looked out the window and thought, oh my God, a plane hit the World Trade Center. After a while, the deli filled with soot and debris and everyone started to panic. I panicked. I ran out of the deli and headed for the One train. When I got to the station the police were pushing people into the train. Everyone was yelling and crying. It took an hour to get to 34th street, and that’s when they made the announcement that Tower Two had collapsed. I was in a daze. Later that night, when I finally made it home to the Bronx, my parents and my grandparents broke down. They had thought I was gone.”
ing a freight train coming at me”“Finding myself homeless was like standing on the track and see
Like many thousands of New Yorkers whose companies were devastated, Lance lost his job. He shifted gears and started taking classes at Devry University. For a decade, Lance maintained a series of steady jobs, but in 2013 his life took a tragic turn.
Lance had a good position working at the Department of Commerce, but budget cuts were implemented and he was laid off. At the time, he was living with his mother and father in a run-down building in the Bronx. His family was forced to vacate the apartment when they refused to pay rent after a bathtub fell through their ceiling. Lance had no income, no home and his family had nowhere to go.
Suddenly, Lance and his parents were homeless. They entered the New York City shelter program, and it was there that things went from bleak to terrible. After a short time in the shelter, Lance’s mother unexpectedly passed away due to a he
art attack. Lance was distraught and fell into a depression. Looking back on that time he says, “I took things for granted. Finding myself homeless was like standing on the track and seeing a freight train coming at me.”
A counselor at the homeless shelter referred Lance to ACE’s vocational training program, Project Comeback. It was your support that provided Lance this path back to self-sufficiency. You provided the work experience on ACE’s maintenance crew and the classroom resources he needed to build his resume and apply to jobs. After six months with ACE, Lance earned a full-time position as the Crew Supervisor on the Broadway Clean Team.
“Thank you for believing in me”
At the ACE graduation ceremony, Lance touched the audience when he pointed to his father and said, “I just want to make you proud.” With tears in their eyes they embraced. This compelling moment happened because you, and others like you, gave a gift to someone in need. In Lance’s words, “Being helped by someone who doesn’t know you, who is willing to give you a chance, that feels great. Because of those supporters, I am actually now in a position to give to others who want an opportunity. It is incredible.”
It’s now a year later and Lance is doing great. He continues to proudly earn a living managing the Clean Team and he rents an apartment in Staten Island. He asked us to pass on this message, “Thank you for believing in me.”