From Homelessness to a Career at VOA-GNY
Edward Brown worked for the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation for twenty years until knee surgery forced him to leave. The long search for a job that was less physically demanding caused him to go through his savings. A proud man, Mr. Brown refused to move in with family. Instead, he became homeless.
Once admitted to the NYC shelter system, he was assigned to Camp LaGuardia, our former transitional shelter for 1,001 men in Chester, NY. He recalls boarding the bus in Manhattan, carrying all his belongings in two plastic bags—“a homeless person’s suitcase”—and arriving to Chester in the wee hours of the morning.
From the start, Mr. Brown felt the staff at Camp LaGuardia believed him capable of getting his life back on track. He took advantage of every opportunity offered to him at the shelter and twice was voted president of the client advisory board. But when staff, impressed with his work ethic and reliability, encouraged him to apply for a job with Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY), he hesitated because he worried he would be a disappointment.
Eventually, however, Mr. Brown felt confident enough to accept a position as Client Case Worker at VOA-GNY, and within a few months, he had saved enough money to move into the community and an apartment of his own. That was in 2001. Since then, Mr. Brown has worked in several roles at VOA-GNY programs and has been promoted more than once. Today he is Front Desk Supervisor at Commonwealth Veterans Residence in the Bronx and is less than a year away from retirement.
“I think the the VOA-GNY theme song should be 'Lean on Me.'”
Mr. Brown tells the clients with whom he interacts that it doesn’t matter to VOA-GNY where you’ve been, but only where you’re headed.