Not that long ago, Steven Segarra ate whatever food he could find and slept wherever he wasn’t kicked out.
“If you’ve ever seen one of those people on the street that hasn’t bathed for a while with the big beard and all the bags — that was me,” Segarra said.
Heavy drinking broke up his family and left Segarra without his retail management job before he turned 40, he said Friday from the corner of 116th Street and Lexington Avenue. The Manhattan native turned to drugs and found shelter wherever he could — subway stations, rooftops, shelters and churches.
“I’m a God-fearing man, and when the church priest says there’s nothing we can do for you, it’s eye opening,” Segarra, now 50, told Metro.
Segarra was on 57th Street and Sixth Avenue one October day when he said he decided to approach one a man in a blue jumpsuit cleaning the street.
Less than six months later, a clean-shaven Segarra smiled broadly as he swept the East Harlem corner in jumpsuit emblazoned with “The Doe Fund.”
Last week, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito repeated lawmaker’s commitment to clean city streets with help of the Doe Fund, a nonprofit shelter that houses and trains formerly incarcerated and homeless New Yorkers for the workforce.
In all, 26 Council members from across the city committed about $766,000 of its $3.5 million Cleanup NYC initiative to hire the men in blue to keep their streets tidy.
Mark-Viverito herself directed slightly more than $68,000 for Doe Fund workers to help her district stretching from the South Bronx to East Harlem.
“Through this program, they serve about 170 miles of New York City streets and sidewalks, helping make our neighborhoods more beautiful and safer,” Mark-Viverito told reporters on Jan. 13.
Launched in 1990, the Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing & Able, accepts applicants into the 9- to 12-month program where each trainee earns up to $8.95 for a 30-hour work week.
Trainees pay $100 a week for food and housing to help mirror real-world obligations. The program emphasizes how participants can save money but also how they can expand their skills to make more money.
Randy Hutton, 55, became homeless last August, but joined the program about a month later. Raised in the Wakefield neighborhood of the Bronx, Hutton said he had a good job working maintenance at a school but he developed a drinking problem and missed work days.
Hutton told Metro he already has his commercial drivers license while at the Doe Fund and is working on getting an exterminator license.
Between the job, classes, housing and generally supportive environment, Hutton said, the hardest part for him is learning to adapt to different personalities — especially those who might not be ready to change their lives.
“This isn’t rock bottom,” he said. “Rock bottom is prison. This is a couple steps up the latter. If you can’t make it here, then you’ll be hitting rock bottom.”
New Yorkers walking along the busy intersection noticed the work done by the Doe fund crew. One woman, who did not want to be named, pushed a cart along the already swept sidewalk.
“It’s nice to see people do good around here,” she said.
One young man who appeared to be in his 20s wearing a black hooded jacket quietly approached Segarra in his blue jumpsuit to ask about work.
The fact he made a similar choice to seek help from a man in blue only months earlier was not lost on Segarra, who was recently promoted to a driver job after only four months, four months that were made easier with a different perspective.
“It’s not rehabilitation,” he said. “It’s reeducation.”
Council Districts Donating to the Doe Fund
District 17 | Arroyo – $68,627.45
District 14 | Cabrera – $68,627.45
District 15 | Torres – $68,627.45
District 43 | Gentile – $68,627.45
District 44 | Greenfield – $68,627.45
District 34 | Reynoso – $34,627.45
District 47 | Treyger – $6,540
District 45 | Williams – $68,627.45
Brooklyn Delegation – $38,750
District 4 | Gardonick – $3,500
District 5 | Kallos – $54,313.73
District 7 | Levine – $68,627.45
District 8 | Mark-Viverito – $68,627.45
District 10 | Rodriguez – $38,000
District 6 | Rosenthal – $73,627.45
District 22 | Constantinides – $134,591
District 30 | Crowley – $130,428.45
District 25 | Dromm – $128,627.45
District 29 | Koslowitz – $115,627.45
District 24 | Lancman – $133,092.45
District 31 | Richards – $91,800
District 32 | Ulrich – $21,000
District 13 | Vacca – $68,627.45
District 19 | Vallone – $68,627.45
District 26 | Van Bramer – $65,000
District 23 | Weprin – $40,000