A Chance for Change
Matt McCloskey, after years of ups and downs, knows a good thing when he sees it.
Nearly two years ago, McCloskey was struggling with addiction and facing certain homelessness when a chance conversation led him to 1515 Fairmount Avenue. A spot at St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Residence and support from our Workforce Solutions department eventually followed.
Now working as a porter at MANNA, a Philadelphia non-profit that cooks and delivers meals and provides nutrition counseling to people who are battling life-threatening illnesses, the 53-year-old is feeling a renewed sense of comfort planning farther than a few weeks or months ahead.
“I plan on staying here, as long as they’ll have me,” he said. “[MANNA] is going to be here for a while, so I plan on retiring here.”
McCloskey, originally from Levittown, PA, came to Philadelphia in 2016 after the death of his mother, crashing with a friend and starting a recovery program. When this arrangement fell apart and homelessness loomed, he was buoyed by staff in our Outreach Coordination Center.
A few months into his stay at St. Elizabeth’s, McCloskey recalls, he was approached by Alexis Pugh, our director of Workforce Solutions, who told him “it’s time to for you to get a job.”
That summer, he helped launch the fledgling Sanctuary Farm which grows and distributes free produce to families near St. Elizabeth’s in North Philadelphia. He loved the work and still maintains ties to the farm, volunteering when he can.
As the work at Sanctuary Farm wound down for the season, McCloskey entered the Workforce Solutions apprenticeship program, a four-month paid internship opportunity that helps unemployed or under-employed individuals gain the experience required to re-enter the job market. Interviews were arranged with area employment partners, but McCloskey told Pugh to cancel the remaining appointments once he visited MANNA.
“I still can't describe what it was, but I like their mission to make sure sick people get fed,” he said. “It was just a vibe I got, and it was pretty good.”
The apprenticeship program consists of part-time work at the partner site and financial literacy classwork; once McCloskey completed the program, he was brought on full-time at MANNA. He called his pay “a good shock” and was happily readjusting to financial independence.
“The money is great. But when it comes down to it this a job that I do enjoy. I didn't think I would be able to say that when I first started,” he said. “I mean work is hard, but it keeps me busy and keeps my mind off stuff.”
McCloskey has now been with MANNA for over a year, and his next step is obtaining a unit in one of our supportive residences, perhaps JBJ Soul Homes.
Workforce Solutions will often take a step back once their charges are settled into their new work environment, assuring them that they are always there if they need anything, but wanting to ensure their folks regain their independence. And McCloskey is happy with that arrangement.
“Project HOME saved my life, actually. I was blessed to be brought into Project HOME. Not only did they help support me in getting employment, but they are also going to help connect me to housing?” he said. “You can’t beat it. And all I have to do is stay clean and do what I should have been doing? It’s great. Life is great.”