NEW YORK CITY, NY — A couple of years ago, Mike Rutigliano of Stephen Thorpe Plumbing & Heating in Flushing, NY, was looking for some able-bodied help. He took a chance on an organization that trains and supports people who need a “second chance” in life. Rutigliano contacted the Doe Fund, a New York-based nonprofit organization whose goal is to help formerly homeless people “right their ship” and become productive and useful citizens.

The organization’s mission statement is “to provide these individuals with the job skills training, social support services, and the paid employment experience necessary to secure and maintain private sector employment and self-supported housing.”

“I had reservations at first,” admitted Rutigliano. “But everyone is entitled to a second chance. I needed help, and he worked out well.”

The truth be told, he had high praise for the person he hired from the Doe Fund. Unfortunately for Rutigliano, the person recently left for a better position elsewhere.

“He had a better work ethic than anyone I had hired off the street,” he said. “He didn’t have the trade knowledge, but he was willing to learn and work as long as it took, which often included long hours.”

Rutigilano is not ruling out returning

to the Doe Fund to hire another trainable person. Contractors and other business owners report similar success stories.

The Doe Fund’s “Ready, Willing, and Able” (RWA) program is a structured plan that includes teaching participants the importance of the work ethic, being responsible for one’s own self, promoting self-worth, and planning for the future.

“Our biggest selling point is the 12 to 18 month [RWA] program,” said Isabel Ames, coordinator of Vocational Programming. “The participants work for us for a minimum of 10 months at 35 hours per week. They are paid a $6.50 per hour stipend.”

Rutigliano said the Doe Fund staff kept in constant contact with him and were very supportive of their program graduate. “The Doe Fund has an outstanding support staff,” he said.

Ames said that 70% of the support staff is composed of former participants.

Particulars of the RWA program include:

While on a recent jobsite, a few participants in the Doe Fund's "Ready, Willing, and Able" program pose for the camera.
  • Upon entering the program, participants receive a $15-per-week stipend, pay no rent, and receive meals at no cost. They must spend four hours each day participating in the operation, security, and maintenance of the program facility.

  • Participants are assigned to a case manager, who assesses their background, meets with family members, and works with parole boards or courts (if necessary) to ensure that there are no barriers to the success of each participant.

  • Participants are given skills training through paid work projects. They are required to contribute $50 per week for rent, $15 per week for meals, and must save $30 each week. “Once they graduate to a full-time job, we will match their savings with a $1,000 donation, payable over five months,” said Ames.

  • During their training, participants receive a number of services, including education and life skills training, alcohol and substance abuse treatment, and relapse prevention/group counseling.

  • The final phase focuses on securing outside employment. Participants attend computer training courses and a six-week job preparation course. The Doe Fund’s Job Development Team monitors the progress of participants. Currently, the average salary of a RWA graduate is $9.96 per hour.

    “We hold [graduates] to the same high standards of any other workers,” Ames said. “Once someone finds a job, they can remain with us for one to three months, undergoing random drug testing and working with our counselors.

    “If they lose their housing, they can always come back to us. We would never kick them out until they had a stable place to live. And we drug test up to eight months after their hire date.”

    The RWA program has expanded to the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Jersey City, and Philadelphia communities.

    Ames said that some of the RWA program graduates have gone into the mechanical trades, but she is trying to put the word out to others that these people are reliable, trainable, and employable.

    “I’d like contractors to provide us with information about the industry and what type of training is necessary for them,” she said. “Or, we’d like contractors to hire our graduates as helpers or apprentices. One of our participants went to work for a local plumber.”

    Kevin Barrett, general manager of the Turner Construction Co., is pleased with an administrative assistant his company hired from the Jersey City Doe Fund.

    “He’s on time. He’s a team player. And he’s doing wonderful work. I couldn’t have asked for more,” said Barrett.

    Contractors interested in the Doe Fund can contact Isabel Ames ( or visit the fund’s website (

    Publication date: 03/18/2002