Putting New Bedford’s Homeless to Work and Helping Them Heal
When Helen Keller wrote, "When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door, that we do not see the one that has been opened for us," she had no idea that she would be describing the essence of Works 4 U, Inc., a New Bedford-based program whose job it is to "end homelessness through employment," according to its founder, Trey Whalley.
A few years ago, he was volunteering in the food pantry of the New Bedford Salvation Army with Major Michael Jung, when the idea for Works 4 U was created. As a financial advisor with his office downtown, Whalley heard the persistent complaints of business owners over the "problem" the homeless people were creating for store owners, so he decided he wouldn't approach it as a problem, but rather a challenge.
"I've spoken with many homeless people here, and most of them don't want to be in the situation they're in," Whalley said. "That's how this whole idea started to percolate."
What makes Works 4 U different from a temporary employment agency is when filling out applications, "they fall through the cracks because the odds are stacked against them. At Works 4 U, we go the extra effort they need," Whalley said. Because of unfavorable backgrounds or a lack of experience and basic skills, homeless people may not get the employment agency job. Works 4 U, however, is much like a matchmaker, connecting homeless people with job opportunities and support services so they can gain a steady paycheck and the chance they need to get back on their feet.
Works 4 U is such a gainful opportunity for homeless workers because they are given the chance to earn a day's pay by painting houses, landscaping, or working on clean-up and beautification projects. When the workday is done, they are connected with resources they need to move in a more positive direction.
"We're a non-profit 501c3 and our ultimate goal is to purchase a farm where the homeless can live and get away from the influences that pull them back down," Whalley said. "You'd be surprised that some of the people had a sense of purpose once, but something traumatic happened and put them in a bad situation and from there, they got lost."
Part of the organization's mission is to help them overcome that trauma that is holding them back.
"On another level, we help them with underlying issues, so they can grow personally and spiritually and finally find their won-back sense of purpose," Whalley said.
Contact Works 4 U on the organization's Facebook page.