news: February 27, 2013

Philadelphia Gamechangers: Ready, Willing & Able

Cherri Gregg

Also known as the "Men in Blue," Ready, Willing & Able is all about opportunity.

"What we do is provide an opportunity for men to change their own lives," says LeeRoy Jordan, program director for Ready, Willing & Able. He says the organization's philosophy is, "Work works."

Many of these men were once incarcerated or addicted to drugs, but Ready Willing & Able provides the men with a place to stay and puts them to work.

Jordan (left) says that over the past eight years, the nonprofit has provided more than 1,000 single, homeless men with paying jobs — cleaning parks, cooking meals, providing security, and performing other tasks.

At the same time, they receive work training and life skills training, as well as other support.

"Almost 100 percent of the men said they were poor and had no money when they came into the program," says Jordan. "The average savings when they leave here is about $3,000 — and you hope they would do well with that."

He says that after a year to 18 months with RWA, most leave with $3,000 in savings and a place to call their own.

Some even reconnect with their families and move back with their wives, or rekindle relationships with their children.

"These men may be homeless on paper, but they all belong to someone," says Jordan.

Lamont Walker (right) has been in the program for eight months. "It's been life-changing," he says. "I used to be on drugs; I'm drug-free now. I have some savings. I'm training new guys on how to work in the building."

"I saw these guys in blue working in the park and they were smiling, and I said, 'Who are these guys?'" recalls James Veal, chairman of the board of Ready Willing & Able of Philadelphia. He says he was so impressed he decided to get involved.

"We are all the same," says Veal, who works as a financial advisor. "Most of these guys just made a wrong decision and took a different path. We are from the same community; we could have been neighbors. So my goal here is to not just be a chairman. I want to be a part of this."

Jordan says the program transforms the men from helpless to hopeful.

"That transformation happens here," he says. "The special thing about us, we get to watch it."