Steve Greenberg used to be an adult education teacher. Now, he’s a social entrepreneur working out the kinks in a program that, if successful, will help veterans and returning citizens get jobs while furnishing affordable housing units.
Based out of NextFab, Furnishing a Future just officially began a week ago, with support from a number of nonprofits, government agencies and companies such as R.I.S.E., Ready Willing & Able, IKEA, Veterans Multi-Service Center and Impact Services.
The five-week program has returning citizens and veterans assemble furniture for homeless individuals transitioning to affordable housing.
The odds of homeless individuals going back to the street after being placed in affordable housing are much higher without furniture, Greenberg said.
“You give them furniture, it’s a whole other world,” he said — the “housing” feels like home.
A few folks have already come through Greenberg’s doors during a pilot period, but right now, he’s working with two reentrants from R.I.S.E.
“I don’t want to do this unless there’s a realistic chance of them getting a job,” said Greenberg. “Most of the work programs I’ve seen in Philadelphia don’t have a specific job in mind. Without specific skills and specific employers’ input, they’re going through programs and not getting jobs.”
Greenberg was originally going to look for his own space, buy his own equipment and insurance — but a lot of those startup costs have been eliminated or reduced by renting a space at NextFab.
“NextFab has very generously hosted me by giving a few free memberships to these guys and reducing costs on materials,” he said. “And allowing me to run a training program out of their facility.”
Greenberg said it will be a slow process, but once the program gets its wheels and participants start landing jobs, Furnishing a Future “should take off.”