“From the start, I felt that the staff at Camp LaGuardia believed in me and knew I was capable of getting my life back on track.”
New York, New York - January, 2021
My name is Ed Brown. For twenty years I worked for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation until knee surgery forced me to leave. I searched long and hard for a job that was less physically demanding, but I couldn’t find anything before going through all of my savings and becoming homeless.
Once I was admitted to the New York City shelter system, I was assigned to Camp LaGuardia, Volunteers of America-Greater New York’s transitional shelter for 1,001 men in Chester, NY. I remember boarding the bus in Manhattan, carrying all of my belongings in two plastic bags—“a homeless person’s suitcase”—and arriving to Chester in the wee hours of the morning.
From the start, I felt that the staff at Camp LaGuardia believed in me and knew I was capable of getting my life back on track. I took advantage of every opportunity offered to me at the shelter.
Twice I was voted president of the client advisory board. But when staff, impressed with my work ethic and reliability, encouraged me to apply for a job with Volunteers of America-Greater New York, I hesitated because I was worried I’d be a disappointment.
Eventually, however, I felt confident enough to apply for the role of Client Case Worker at VOA-GNY and was offered the job. Within a few months, I had saved enough money to move into the community and an apartment of my own. That was in 2001. Since then, I’ve worked in several roles at VOA-GNY and have been promoted more than once. Today, I’m Front Desk Supervisor at Commonwealth Veterans Residence, VOA-GNY’s supportive housing residence in the Bronx for veterans, and I’m less than a year away from retirement.
I think the VOA-GNY theme song should be “Lean on Me.” I always tell clients that it doesn’t matter to VOA-GNY where you’ve been, but only where you’re headed.