Transforming Lives: The Impact of the Work Now Program

From cleaning up parks and washing county vehicles to receiving identification and interviewing for full time positions, the Work Now program offers those experiencing homelessness a pathway to stable, independent lives through a paid day of work and access to crucial services.

A partnership between Volunteers of America Delaware Valley and the Camden County Board of Commissioners, Work Now provides a unique opportunity for individuals who may have been reluctant to seek help initially. By earning a day’s wage, participants are incentivized to engage with services, breaking down barriers of mistrust and skepticism.

The heart of the program lies in its team’s ability to build rapport and trust with participants. VOADV Work Now Coordinator Alyssa Fitzpatrick “Fitz” and her staff Tyree Carter and Sean Williams, are able to not only engage with participants as program clients, but also relate to them as partners in the day’s work. It is often in those “by the water cooler” moments that staff are able to have the important conversations about their lives today and their goals for the future.

“I faced homelessness in my late teens,” Fitz reflects, who began her time with VOADV as an intern in the Atlantic City Navigational Resource Center and credits her own life experience with drawing her to the service of others. “Once I finished my master’s degree, I was like, you know what? I want to go where I can see where people are really being helped. And so, I came back to VOADV.”

After spending time in several IMPACT law enforcement partner departments, Fitz began her journey with Work Now and immediately recognized the program’s innovative approach to making a difference.

“What is really great about this program is that we get to interact with clients as if they’re coworkers. We have boundaries, of course, but instead of just sitting down in an office and talking to someone, we get to be out there working with them, getting to know them more as a person,” Fitz explains. “We get to see what’s inside and that makes it easier for us to help them, because then they trust us enough to tell us their entire situation. I think it really helps us form a plan for them.”

Fitz and her team understand that every individual has a unique story and tailor their approach accordingly. Work Now has no rigid eligibility criteria – it welcomes any who are homeless and in need of support. Clients are able to choose daily whether or not to participate and those who leave may come back in time if they feel better prepared to take the next steps toward independence.

Whether it’s obtaining identification, addressing substance use issues, or securing stable housing, Fitz and her team are prepared to work with participants until they accomplish their goals.

“We try our best to make sure as long as they’re putting in the work on the services end – giving us a job application, showing us that they got their credentials, showing us that they’re saving money, we’ll continue to work with them because trying, it’s just the other barriers that are preventing them from actually getting the employment and the housing. So as long as they put in the work, I’m more than willing to keep on working with them.”

Success stories within the Work Now program are a testament to its impact. Over 30 participants have gone on to receive a stable income and Fitz recounts one client who, despite a history of incarceration, found employment and stability within one month of participating in Work Now.

At its core, the Work Now program provides an honest day of work and meaningful engagement, fostering an environment of dignity and respect. Thanks to Fitz and the entire Work Now team, participants are recognized as the valued members of a community striving for a better future that they are.

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