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Ex-homeless to clean streets in Briarwood

Funds allocated by City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) will be used to hire formerly homeless men to clean Briarwood streets, the city lawmaker and community residents said this week.

Gennaro announced Monday that he secured $82,500 for the clean-up initiative, which will pay for three men from The Doe Fund, an organization that helps to employ individuals who had been homeless, to clean Briarwood streets for six hours a day, five days a week over the next year.

“The Doe Fund will be here on the streets five days a week making sure stores, those who shop in the stores and the people who live in this community have beautiful, pristine streets,” Gennaro said. “We want to make Main Street in Briarwood as clean as Main Street in Disney World.”

Seymour Schwartz, president of the Briarwood Civic Association, said the funds should bring a dramatic improvement to area streets. As the population in the area grows, Schwartz said there has been an increase in litter and overflowing garbage cans.

“We’re no longer a suburban enclave,” Schwartz said. “Due to the attraction of mass transportation here and the fact that part of our community remains zoned R-6, which allows multi-story buildings, we’ve had substantial movement in the community. You have food containers on the ground and unfortunately some people abuse the public receptacles, which overflow. We’re beginning to feel the reduction in city services.”

Gennaro has previously worked with The Doe Fund, which has provided workers to clean streets in Kew Gardens Hills. The Doe Fund works with 700 men in the city who have been homeless and helps them to gain employment. The project in Briarwood will be a good stepping stone to more permanent, full-time employment, according to Ray Damm, director of the fund’s Community Improvement Project.

“It teaches them important soft skills like getting up on time for a job,” Damm said.

Doe Fund Founder and President George McDonald said he was thrilled to work again with Gennaro and make Briarwood a “cleaner and more inviting place.”

“At the same time, we are providing an opportunity for formerly homeless individuals to rebuild their lives,” McDonald said. “These hardworking individuals have truly become assets to the neighborhood.”

Residents said cleaner streets should bring more shoppers to Briarwood stores.

“Their services will not only improve the appearance of the community, but the fact that Doe is paying attention to this community is significant to community morale,” Schwartz said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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