30 formerly homeless men graduate Saturday

ATLANTA — A program that's taking homeless men off the streets to train them and get them jobs is celebrating a milestone.

The first graduating class of Georgia Works will get their diplomas Saturday.

“I didn't have a job, didn't have a place to stay, didn't have any money,” Adolphus Chandler told Channel 2’s Erin Coleman about his life before the program.

But now Chandler is employed full time and has his own apartment for the first time ever.

“I don't need any kind of assistance from the government or anyone else,” he said. “I'm able to take care of myself, which is what I wanted to be able to do.”

We first met him and more than a dozen other men as they cleaned up metro Atlanta streets in April. They're all part of a relatively new program called Georgia Works. It's a group patterned after an idea in New York City that has homeless men help clean up their community, and after a year of support in the program, it helps them find jobs and a place to stay. Now, the first class of 30 men is graduating.

“I'm just busting with joy about the whole thing,” said Chandler.

“None of our men are on food stamps anymore,” said the program’s executive director, Phil Hunter. “They're actually working every day. They're making money taking care of themselves and their families now.”

“I'm general labor at a construction site and we're building a new middle school in College Park,” said Jasper Thomas.

Thomas has a few more months before he too can graduate, but he says it's seeing success stories like Chandler’s that are making an impact on so many.

“It's a joy watching a guy reclaim his life,” said Hunter

“Georgia Works works. I can say it like that,” said Chandler.

The men graduated around 11 a.m. Saturday. Program leaders say they're looking to expand the program from about 40 men to 100 men in the next few months.