January 19, 2024

AFJ IN THE NEWS: DEUTSCHE WELLE’S “Young and Homeless in New York” Piece

John Torres. Photo by Marty Umans

This week at Avenues for Justice (AFJ), we wanted to highlight Deutsche Welle’s news piece, “Young and Homeless in New York”, featuring AFJ Program Graduates, John and Zoe. Click the video below to watch.

The majority of our Participants come to us with gaps in their education and lack adequate job readiness skills which Avenues for Justice works to fill. During the pandemic quarantine, our Participants were further impacted by the quick switch to remote learning, loss of income from layoffs, housing insecurity and homelessness. Program Graduates John and Zoe are currently residing in a homeless shelter with their baby, Isabella, as a result of housing displacement.

In 2019,John was mandated by the courts to AFJ’s program to receive court advocacy and wraparound services instead of being sent to prison. He was awarded a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities after successfully graduating from AFJ. Certificate of Relief from Disabilities are issued to eligible individuals who have been convicted of any number of misdemeanors and no more than one felony, with the term “disability” referring to laws that disqualify people from holding certain jobs or other rights because of their conviction. In five years’ time, John can apply to have his record expunged.

In 2023,John took part in AFJ’s OSHA and Flaggers training courses with certification, while Zoe attended HIRE Up workshops at our Lower East Side community center. With AFJ’s assistance, they were both able to go through a security certification program, and John landed a part-time job in security at a hospital. Notwithstanding all of their hard work, housing remains a critical issue for their family. For more than a year, they have been looking for an apartment, without any luck. A daughter being added to the equation hasn't made things any easier. John’s part-time job does not pay enough for them to make ends meet. The challenges they face are ones affecting many. According to Deutsche Welle, as of January 2023, “around 650,000 Americans are in a similar position - the highest number of homeless people in the USA ever, with more than 90,000 in New York alone”.

"More people are going to the hospital [where I work as a security guard] just because they want a bed, want something to eat. The hospital can't deny them. It's unfortunate because sometimes I have to kick them out, because that's part of my job, even though I don't want to. I know what it feels like to be homeless because I experienced it myself." ~John

Avenues for Justice remains committed to assisting John and Zoe through the arduous process of securing adequate housing in the year ahead.


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