On Saturday, April 30 at 10 a.m., New York City-based nonprofit The Doe Fund will host its Ready, Willing & Able Graduation Ceremony at the Apollo Theater.
For over 30 years, the Ready, Willing & Able reentry program has advanced a transformational “three-legged stool” approach, providing paid work, transitional housing, and support services to individuals experiencing homelessness and returning from incarceration. Ready, Willing & Able costs 40% less per bed than a New York City homeless shelter, while graduates are 62% less likely to reenter the criminal justice system compared to demographically-identical individuals.
Ready, Willing & Able is best known for the Men in Blue, who clean over 115 miles of New York City streets. This past year, the Men in Blue expanded to 18 new neighborhoods as a result of The Doe Fund’s partnership with the City Cleanup Corps — an example of the organization serving as a resource for and partner to the city as it recovers. After this first phase of the program, participants advance to career training, including skilled trades such as welding.
This year, The Doe Fund will celebrate over 200 men who earned professional certifications and who graduated from the program in 2021 by achieving employment, permanent housing, and lasting sobriety. In addition, the ceremony will honor hundreds more graduates from 2019 and 2020 who did not have a chance to celebrate in-person due to the pandemic.
This year’s Graduation theme is Better Together, reflecting the diverse stakeholders who help graduates achieve success — from employers to housing providers to donors to political leaders. Supporters can help raise awareness of the event and send messages congratulating graduates through the Better Together campaign.
Speakers include Adrienne Adams, Speaker of the New York City Council, whose District has been served by the Men in Blue through the City Cleanup Corps; former City Council Member and current Doe Fund Executive Vice President Robert Cornegy, Jr.; Harriet Karr-McDonald, President of The Doe Fund; the Rev. Alfonso Wyatt; a 2021 Ready, Willing & Able graduate; State Assemblymember Eddie Gibbs via video; and a secret celebrity guest via video.
“Providing essential opportunities for recovery and stability to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness or returning from incarceration is key to advancing the well-being of our city,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “The Doe Fund has been an exceptional partner in these efforts, and their programs are vital to helping New Yorkers get back on their feet and access opportunities to thrive. I extend my congratulations to the graduates of the Ready, Willing & Able reentry program and applaud everyone who supported their success.”
“I know firsthand how hard one must work to turn their life around after facing incarceration or other difficult circumstances,” said State Assembly Member Eddie Gibbs, who will be in attendance. “I am excited to join the graduates of the Ready, Willing & Able program, who I know will go on to do great things in service of their communities. I would like to thank The Doe Fund for their continued dedication to assisting individuals in overcoming obstacles by providing opportunities for jobs, housing, and other important services.”
“There is no Doe Fund event that speaks more clearly to the transformative power of opportunity, the potential within the men it serves, and the efficacy of our three-legged stool model than Graduation,” said Harriet Karr-McDonald. “After so much time apart, we can’t think of a better place to gather together in celebration than a landmark like the Apollo.”
“I returned home after playing ball abroad to find my friends and neighbors struggling with addiction, coming back from incarceration with no support system, and trapped in cycles of poverty. I see them — just like I see myself — in the men who The Doe Fund serves,” said Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. “And their success, in the face of justice involvement and homelessness and systemic racism, gives us all hope for the future. Together, we’re showing New York that there’s a way forward.”