By Amelia Roth-Dishy
Friday marked the first day of a new employment program for the men currently housed at the Lucerne Hotel, who await a court hearing on Monday to determine whether they’ll be moved to a new shelter downtown.
The program, a collaboration between the Goddard Riverside Community Center (GRCC) and Project Renewal, offers paid training in horticulture and street beautification for 10 hours a week at $15 an hour, administered through the GRCC’s Green Keepers social enterprise program.
Dressed in bright yellow rain jackets, a group of Lucerne residents fanned out across the neighborhood to sweep the sidewalks and pick up litter. They pushed trash cans emblazoned with a Project Renewal “Good Neighbors Program” logo. While the men were excited about their new jobs, they expressed apprehension about Monday’s looming hearing. Of course, if the results of the hearing mean that the men must leave the Lucerne, today may have been the first and last operational day of the program.
“We’re helping the community, upgrading the area and we’re praying we can stay at the Lucerne. I work and I go to school here,” said Joseph Humphrey, Jr, a Lucerne resident. “If we move we can’t do these jobs anymore and then I have to figure out a way to get to school.”
Larry Thomas, a former Lucerne resident who recently moved into permanent supportive housing, echoed the sentiment that this job fostered a sense of shared responsibility for the neighborhood. “I think what Goddard Riverside did in creating this program is a great thing, because it not only helps us, it also helps show the community that we’re here to work and to take care of the community,” he said.
The idea for the Green Keepers positions came about in August, when an anonymous board member at Goddard Riverside pledged $250,000 towards programming for Lucerne residents. A recreational program was intended to complement the jobs program, but it was shuttered in the back-and-forth around the men’s scheduled — and then legally blocked — move downtown. Now that the jobs program is finally off the ground, GRCC tentatively hopes to accommodate up to 50 Lucerne residents as employees.