By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Hundreds of reunited families saluted their at-one-time homeless loved ones at a graduation ceremony for “Ready, Willing & Able” of Philadelphia on Thursday.

Wearing bright blue caps and gowns, 34 men and one woman stood on the stage at the Freedom Theatre, proud of how far they have come.   Each at one time slept on the streets.  Now, they clean them with pride.

“We are the men in blue,” says program director LeeRoy Jordan. “We help to keep the City of Philadelphia clean.  We clean Fairmount Park, we clean the West Philadelphia Empowerment Zone, and we clean the North Philadelphia Empowerment Zone.  We also are the janitorial and custodial services for two of the city’s premiere family and children shelters.”

Jordan says program attendees learn work skills, how to save, and how to manage their own lives.

Graduate Adam Ramsue, who spent 14 months in the program after overcoming drug addiction, spoke about his experience.

“I was in dire straits in my life. The program helped me make a 180-degree turn and get my life back on track.”

“A Caucasian man with a criminal record is more likely to get a job than an African-American man without a record,” says Ready Willing & Able founder and president George McDonald.  He’s proud of the program because, he says, it takes individuals once forgotten, like the homeless and ex-offenders, and gives them a place in mainstream society.

“We have employers who hire our folks knowing full well what their backgrounds are and accepting that.  And once a man gets past that, he doesn’t want to go back.”

Nearly 400 individuals have graduated from Ready Willing & Able Philadelphia over the past 10 years, each leaving with a full-time job and a place to call home.

Click here for more information on Ready, Willing & Able.

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