On a typical Saturday afternoon, some of the residents of 1211 Bainbridge St. are returning to the place they call home after a hard day of work in the field.
The men, who can often be seen in city parks wearing blue uniforms, are “trainees” of the Ready, Willing and Able (RWA) program in Philadelphia.
RWA houses 70 previously homeless and incarcerated men to give them an opportunity to become part of the workforce.
Ninety-four percent of the men in the program have suffered from drug addiction and approximately 41 percent do not have high school diplomas or GED certificates. While statistics like these often deter employers, RWA graduates have a high rate of getting employed.
The concept of the program is that “work works,” so once trainees are accepted into the program, they begin by cleaning up city parks and neighborhood streets.
Supervisor of Admission and Facility Operation Jeffrey Stubbs says that the trainees are “real men” whom employers want to hire.
Stubbs is passionate about RWA’s mission. So passionate, in fact, that several plaques awarding his commitment to service hang from the walls inside of the building. He is dedicated because he understands what the men are going through.
A Bahamian native that first came to the United States after being offered basketball scholarships to several universities, Stubbs lost his own way to drugs. He recovered from his addiction and has been sober for over 25 years.
He works hard to give men the same chance to succeed that he once received.
“I’ve seen great changes in the men and I applaud them. I don’t want to take credit for their success though. Because if I take credit for their success, I’m going to have to take credit for their failure. I don’t want to be a part of that,” Stubbs says.
He believes that the training the men receive in the program is what keeps them motivated to succeed.
The men currently make $7.40 an hour while training in the program. Each week, $105 from the salary goes toward their room and board, while another $30 is put into a savings account. Once they graduate, the trainees receive their savings, as well as a matching gift from the organization. It helps them offset the costs of moving into their first homes.
“RWA’s founder George McDonald always wants to make sure that his men are making more than minimum salary. It keeps them feeling self-sufficient,” says Stubbs.
After six or seven months of training are completed, the men apply for jobs within various departments of the city government, SEPTA and other unions.
Despite living in a city that is facing severe financial cutbacks, Stubbs is assured that the men will not have trouble finding work once they graduate from the program. He says the failing economy has not affected the men’s ability to obtain jobs.
However, Stubbs does fear that the city’s current financial situation may affect RWA’s internal programs. RWA is a non-profit organization, which receives some city funding from the Office of Supporting Housing (OSH).
Stubbs says that funding has been cut back recently, but that private fundraising efforts are underway.
For the time being, RWA will continue to operate normally.
The organization is set to release its newest graduates into self-sufficiency later this month.
For more information about Ready, Willing and Able, please visit their website.