Why We Do What We Do

October 15, 2009

Simply put, America Works of New York, Inc. is a company with a conscience. When you read this story, we hope you’ll agree.

Although we’re essentially an employment agency, we’re a very specialized one. We call on private-sector employers to help lift people from poverty into independence.

Working with governments as well as faith- and community-based organizations (FCBOs), we place “hard-to-serve” people such as welfare recipients, homeless veterans, and former criminal offenders into the job market. Over our 25-year history, we estimate that we’ve found jobs for about 175,000 people in cities such as New York and Albany, N.Y.; Newark, N.J.; Baltimore, MD; and Oakland, CA.

Seeing the smiles on our clients’ faces when they gain employment is truly priceless. Believe us when we say that it never gets old.

But we don’t always know what brings people to our doorstep. That’s why we were especially moved by the letter we received yesterday from one of our clients. We hope you’ll see why we’re so committed to our mission.

To see more feedback from our clients, click on the Testimonials tab above.

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10/14/09

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is XXX XXX and here is my story.

In December ’08, I lost my fiancée due to a fatal car accident and in January ’09, I lost my mom due to ovarian cancer which left me with no family living and through all the expenses I ended up homeless and on the streets of Manhattan in May ’09.

Then in June, I answered a job ad in the New York Daily News at America Works…and met with the incredible caring help from Corina and Edi as they enlisted me for this job.

Their caring and great work for me truly started my life off again and now I’m doing great at the job. I now am off the streets and living in a furnished room and starting my life up again and feeling much better about myself.

Thank you again Corina, Edi, and the staff at America Works. You saved my life and gave me a life again.

Sincerely,

XXX XXX

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Has America Abandoned the Concept of Rehabilitation?

August 3, 2009

New Research Shows A Record Number of “Lifers” in Prisons

It seems that the U.S. has abandoned the concept of rehabilitating criminal offenders. Instead, states are throwing away the book by enacting tough mandatory minimum sentencing laws. To make matters worse, parole boards are apparently reluctant to grant parole even to those who are eligible.

A recent article in The New York Times highlights this situation by noting that there are more prisoners serving life sentences in the U.S. than ever before. There are reportedly 140,610 lifers amongst America’s 2.3 million prison inmates, according to the Sentencing Project, up from 34,000 in 1984.

That’s a 6,664.706 % increase in only 25 years!

The states with the most lifers are California, Alabama, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New York. California’s prison system, the largest in the nation with 170,000 inmates, has 34,164 lifers alone.

It seems that the goal of incarceration in this country is no longer rehabilitation but “lifetime isolation and incapacitation,” according to one person quoted in the article.

Although those who’ve received life terms are generally violent criminals, this is indicative of the way America now deals with all of its offenders. Even non-violent offenders can be hit with “three strikes” sentences that incarcerate them for decades.

There are ways to cope with offenders, particularly those convicted of non-violent and drug-related offenses, that will minimize the negative impact on communities while decreasing the massive expense of locking up everyone. Community supervision is an option that is too often overlooked.

New York State spends $44,000 annually to incarcerate each offender compared to a fraction of that to supervise an offender in the community on probation or parole. The cost is even higher in New York City – a whopping $59,900 to jail an offender for one year.

America Works believes that the best way to break the cycle of recidivism is to prepare ex-offenders for employment, then give them the tools they need to become self-sufficient.

Over the past nine years, we have placed approximately 20,000 ex-offenders in jobs in New York City. When newly released prisoners are referred to us, we provide them with targeted training as well as a resume, appropriate clothing, and car fare, then arrange for job interviews.

In Newark, N.J., where a similar program has been under way for just over 12 months, the recidivism rate for our participants is 2.5%. That’s a small fraction of the state-wide average of 51%, according to the “Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) Final Report” by the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice.

Job placement programs such as this one actually benefit the state, the county, and the city. Moving ex-offenders into employment decreases the burden on expensive state programs such as welfare and food stamps while simultaneously increasing income tax revenues. But it has social benefits that aren’t easily quantified such as keeping families together and providing better nutrition to children – benefits that are easy to believe in.


America Works Receives New Department of Labor Grant to Aid Homeless Veterans

July 1, 2009

Chief Executive Officer Dr. Lee Bowes and Founder Peter Cove of America WorksDid you know there are more than one-quarter of a million U.S. military veterans living in New York City?

That’s right. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) estimates that there are about 240,000 U.S. veterans in the five boroughs of NYC.

And while MOVA doesn’t track how many of those men and women are homeless or living in shelters, anecdotal evidence leads us to believe it’s a significant number.

That’s why we’re pleased to announce that one of our affiliated companies has received a grant under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) to provide NYC’s homeless veterans with job training and placement.

The purpose of HVRP is to reintegrate homeless veterans into the workforce while addressing the complex problems they face. Grants were made to a variety of state and local organizations nationwide. HVRP was initially authorized in July 1987, and was re-authorized under the Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act of 2001. For more details about the program, please click here: http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/fact/Homeless_veterans_fs04.htm

This will actually be the second program that America Works is going to offer local veterans. Since January 2009, we’ve operated a pilot program specifically for U.S. veterans who receive food stamps. We operate under contract with funding from MOVA and the NYC Human Resources Administration.

In case you’re not familiar with our mission, let us explain. America Works of New York, Inc. is a Manhattan-based company with a conscience. Founded 25 years ago by social entrepreneur Peter Cove, it provides intensive, personalized employment services to hard-to-place populations including the homeless, criminal offenders, and welfare and food stamp recipients. Our chief executive officer is Dr. Lee Bowes.


Honor America’s Newest Veterans With Jobs

June 15, 2009

When armed conflicts began in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, America promised that those serving in battle would not be neglected as were those who served in Vietnam two generations ago. Sadly, limited social services and shoddy treatment rule as thousands of returning members of the military are discarded after leaving active duty. Even after the parades of Memorial Day fade away, America should remember how much it owes to its service members and reward them for their selflessness by helping them secure jobs in addition to other benefits.

While it may appear counter-intuitive to propose a job creation program for veterans while the economy is in a deep recession, the federal stimulus package offers a solution. Governors may set aside a portion of the discretionary funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to fund a job placement program for specialized populations including disabled veterans and recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly known as welfare, under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

About 7.1 million people have served in the Gulf War since 2001, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, of which 52% are with the Reserve or National Guard and 48% are on active duty. In total, there are about 23.8 million living U.S. veterans who served during both war and peacetime.

Unfortunately, the number of veterans moving into the ranks of the unemployed is growing. There were 28,435 newly discharged veterans claiming unemployment insurance benefits for the week ending May 16, an increase of 181% over the prior year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

While there has been no national study of employment trends among newly returning veterans, a remarkable study conducted by Central Connecticut State University and the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs revealed that employers may be reluctant to hire veterans because of misconceptions about their disabilities.

One way to honor our veterans is to provide them with jobs in addition to other benefits. In fact, employment might well be the best and most effective means of aiding people as they re-enter the civilian workforce.

Since January 2009, America Works has operated a unique job placement program for veterans receiving food stamps with funding from the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Veterans Affairs and the New York City Human Resources Administration. In addition to aiding veterans, this program simultaneously reduces their reliance on New York’s overburdened social services. 

America Works prepares them for the job market (providing them with targeted training as well as a resume, appropriate clothing, and car fare), then sends them out on appropriately selected job interviews. This program is open to newly returning vets as well as those who served at any other time in the past. 

Based on our experience with Vietnam veterans, we know that many people who leave active duty disappear from the public’s view only to end up unemployed and homeless. Is not one measure of a country’s worth its treatment of those who have served, suffered, and survived their ordeals?

We should live by the words of Pres. John F. Kennedy, who said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”