Greg Phillips' pedigree as a brick mason is impeccable. His father Bedford contributed his eminent expertise to impressive modern structures in Detroit, including the Veterans Hospital and the People Mover’s stations.
Greg began learning the craft from his father when he was 14. He is now 54.
“Regardless of the terrible mistakes I’ve made in my life, I still maintain a high standard of workmanship,” Greg says. “I’m resolved to continue my father’s legacy. This responsibility is what keeps me going.”
Greg is currently staying at the Detroit Veterans Center, which provides transitional housing for homeless vets. As a young man, Greg served three years in the Navy.
Greg arrived at center last November, after being released from prison. Of the last ten years, Greg spent eight incarcerated in other states for selling and using drugs.
“I changed in prison and knew I had to rebuild my life,” Greg says. “I came back to Detroit because this is my home. This is where I had success and want to have success again.”
At the Veterans Center, Greg heard about a new program offered by Southwest Solutions called Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program (HVRP). HVRP is funded by the federal Department of Labor. Its goal is to help homeless vets find meaningful employment so that they can be productive members of the community. HVRP assists homeless vets with resources, vocational training and job opportunities.
Greg came to the offices of our Piquette Square for Veterans to work with our two HVRP staff persons, David Cohen and Theresa Paruszkiewicz.
“Greg is a highly skilled individual who is determined to set his life in order and also give back,” David says.
Through our HVRP, Greg obtained tools, transportation, clothing, and other support to start him on the path of gainful employment.
Greg took a job with Tondreau Construction, owned by Nancy Tondreau. Nancy knew Greg’s father and was familiar with the quality of Greg’s work.
“I can read a person’s character and I have a lot of trust in Greg,” Nancy says. “I know he will represent my company well. I also know that he wants to start his own business, and I want him to make it big and become his father’s dream.”
When Greg branches out on his own, he intends to hire and train individuals who’ve been through hard times like himself, and who need another chance to prove themselves.
“Given how far I had fallen, I truly believe that if I can make it, anyone can,” Greg says.
Our HVRP initiative began last July and expects to place more than 50 homeless veterans in good paying jobs in its first year of operation. In addition to helping individuals gain employment, the program connects them to the educational, counseling and support services they may need.
HVRP is part of our Center for Working Families, which is based at our Housing Opportunity Center. To learn more about HVRP, contact David Cohen at 313-874-7014 x.340 or Theresa Paruszkiewicz 313-841-9641 x.326.