Ralph gets up before the sun rises. His alarm goes off at 4:30 in the morning so that he can catch the bus and make the hour-long trek across New Haven.
He makes it to his job by 6:30, ready to work alongside another carpenter for the day. The pair is responsible for maintenance at city parks in New Haven, and each day’s tasks are different. While the early wake up call may not sound all that appealing, this routine is exactly what Ralph needed.
“It’s like having a normal life,” said Ralph.
Ralph is 55 years old and he says he had a difficult time finding work after some major setbacks in the past few years. Even his current job is temporary, so he knows he will have to keep his job search going.
“I just want to have job security.”
Ralph never thought he would become homeless. That’s because he had a job, owned a home, and had a family. Living on the streets of New Haven never crossed his mind.
And then his world came undone: he lost his job, he lost his home, and his marriage ended.
“When you have nothing, what are you going to do?” Ralph asks.
Ralph got in trouble with the law–having been arrested for two DUIs–and served a year in county jail. Like many, he didn’t know where to turn when he was released.
“It’s winter, you don’t know if you’re going to end up on the streets or where you are going to be. It’s a hard time, then you [have] all the holidays, you’re by yourself.”
Not sure where he would go next, Ralph heard about a United Way supported program called EMERGE geared toward ex-offenders recently released from prison.
He decided to give it a try. Ralph got help paying his rent, and he also began attending classes designed to help him land employment. He received skillset training in carpentry, woodworking, and general construction. In addition, Ralph also participated in other training, such as United Way’s Circle of Security Parenting course, academic tutoring, and life coaching and supportive services for homelessness prevention.
United Way believes in this rehabilitation work because it gets results. 63% of EMERGE participants leave the program and find employment. 88% improve their reading and math scores to a 12th grade level.
Most importantly to Ralph, he was treated like family.
“There were a great bunch of guys in there, and you felt welcomed.” When we are down on our luck, we need people to lift us up. And that’s exactly what you’ve done for Ralph as a United Way supporter.
Your contribution to United Way puts individuals and families on the path to financial stability. It’s how we help our neighbors like Ralph realize their own potential.