WOODSIDE — When Navy vet Joshua Ramirez had a stroke in 2009, the left side of his body was paralyzed.
"I was not able to work," said Ramirez, 47, who served six years in the U.S. Navy. Afterward, his unemployment benefits ran out and he ended up homeless.
But starting this past Monday his fortunes began to change.
Ramirez, who has since regained the ability to move and currently lives in a Brooklyn shelter, began cleaning the streets of Woodside along with other people who are trying to turn their lives around.
The group is getting help from the Doe Fund, a non-profit employment program for former inmates and people who have recently been homeless, which was introduced to the Woodside area on Monday.
The men will be cleaning busy Woodside streets three days a week along with the Department of Sanitation, primarily around transportation hubs and commercial areas where piles of garbage have often troubled local residents and business owners.
"There are so many people coming and going. We have the 7 train stop at 61st Street. We have the Long Island Rail Road. We have so many buses and we have these thriving commercial streets here," said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who allocated $31,000 for the program for this year.
"As hard as the Department of Sanitation works, it’s just hard to keep up with it."
The streets that will benefit from the program are Roosevelt Avenue from 51st Street to 61st Street, 61st Street from Roosevelt Avenue to 39th Avenue and Woodside Avenue from 58th Street to 60th Street, including plazas and the surrounding areas.
The area has been hit by a scourge of pigeon droppings, but the workers in the Doe Fund program will not be dealing with that problem.
The idea seems to have the backing from the local business owners. "If the streets are dirty, people won’t come to our businesses," said Jack Donovan, a manager at Donovan’s Pub on Roosevelt Avenue.
"This is an opportunity for the gentlemen in our program to get their lives back on track, while providing cleaner streets to the community members," said Joanna West, director of business and work ventures at The Doe Fund.