Faces of Success Event Celebrates Overcoming Homelessness

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On Wednesday, August 17th, BronxWorks held its Faces of Success event at Fordham University.  The purpose of the evening, which was attended by over 170 people, was to celebrate the successful transition of nearly 100 formerly homeless persons to permanent housing.  The gathering was the first of its kind and featured a photo display, a video, and testimonials by several individuals who once lived on the streets, including former boxing champion Iran Barkley.

The event also served as a testimony to the effectiveness of the Street to Home initiative, which was devised by a partnership that included government agencies, human service organizations, and health care institutions.  George Nashak, Deputy Commissioner for the New York City Department of Homeless Services, was one of several government representatives on hand.  He praised BronxWorks for playing a major role in the Bronx’s 80% reduction in street homelessness since 2005, double the city’s rate of reduction.

Whereas the Bronx once had over 100 street homeless persons in a 10 block area, there are now fewer than 100 street homeless persons in the entire borough,” Mr. Nashak said.  He praised Bronxworks and the other Street to Home partners for their vision and commitment.

Iran Barkley spoke eloquently about his experiences as a homeless person.  “You don’t think becoming homeless can happen to you, but it can happen to anybody,” he observed.  He thanked BronxWorks for helping him and others obtain permanent housing, as well as overcome other challenges.

Marvin Shepard, a US Marine Corps veteran, spoke in similar terms.  “I didn’t want help,” he said, recalling his days on the street when he had to contend alcohol and drug abuse.  “However, the people at BronxWorks were persistent.  I’m glad they were because they saved my life.”

Other honorees were quick to thank BronxWorks as well.  Irving Valentin said it was “the perseverance and hard work” of BronxWorks staff members that enabled him to make a successful transition.  “They stayed with me every step of the way,” he said.

The event included a photo exhibit by Adrian Fussell of New York University that showcased 21 previously homeless persons.  Along with a video created by the independent filmmaker Karim Lopez, it helped set the tone for the evening.

“This is like a class reunion,” remarked David Archer, who went from being on the streets to the BronxWorks Living Room drop-in center before obtaining his own apartment.  The camaraderie between the nearly 100 honorees was inspiring, as men and women who were once homeless embraced one another, celebrating their successful transitions into permanent housing.

One of the highlights of the evening occurred when Donald Renz proudly displayed his keys in the video.  Renz and others in the audience spontaneously jingled their keys in unison after that scene.  All the honorees received a standing ovation prior to the event’s end.

Please click below to watch the Faces of Success video.

Please click below to watch a news story about the event.

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