Through Need People U Trust, Inc., Andre Gore Helps the County’s Homeless Take Their Lives Back
By Annamarya Scaccia/Photos by Sheila Peake
Homelessness is a reality Andre Gore knows all too well.
In 1998, Gore found himself in a “situation,” reluctant to ask his family for help. So the Washington, D.C. native checked into a motel, calling it home for six months. It was a “life-changing experience,” the 57-year-old Upper Marlboro resident says.
“That’s why I’m so passionate about [helping the homeless] because I can identify with many of the issues [they] are facing,” says Gore, founder and executive director of Need People U Trust, Inc. (N-PUT), (pictured, left in yellow), “and not just homeless individuals. Growing up in the District of Columbia, my friends and I were labeled as ‘at-risk kids,’ and it was because of that stigma that was place on us [that] I said if I ever get the opportunity, I was gonna change that.”
So he established N-PUT, an all-volunteer community-based non-profit organization aiding Prince George’s County’s homeless, as well as youth and adults in need. Founded in the capitol in 1999, N-PUT focused chiefly on aiding youth until Gore restructured its mission in 2001 to include all ages. In 2010, N-PUT relocated to the county to “strictly serve” its homeless population.
Through N-PUT, Gore and his team of nearly 20 volunteers distribute clothing and food to people in need, deliver core services like GED training and life skills, help transition individuals from the streets to recovery programs, and provide clients with transportation to necessary places, such as the doctor or Department of Social Services. Currently, N-PUT serves anywhere from 17 to 28 clients.
While the non-profit addresses the needs of the entire homeless population, there’s special emphasis on homeless men—a deliberate choice for Gore.
“Men are supposed to be the providers of the household. Even the bible touches on that,” says the father of three sons. “But we just feel as though it’s no way possible right now with the many issues the homeless male population is facing because they are lacking in many areas.”
“We want to equip these men with the essential skills to move them into the 21st century and beyond to take their lives back,” he adds.
One way this can be achieved, says Gore, is through the Empowerment and Housing Center, a proposed 100-men educational and living space managed through N-PUT’s Homeless ‘N’ Hungry Program. The center’s model is simple: qualifying individuals will take part in a comprehensive 12-month platform, in which they’re assigned a case manager and address crucial issues through counseling and training, such as substance and alcohol abuse, mental health concerns, lack of education and job-readiness, and lack of personal and professional life skills. Once they effectively meet and complete the program’s needs, they will graduate and receive one year of follow up services through an appointed mentor, who will reinforce what was learned during the 12 months.
It’s a disciplined setting that will assist those who aren’t ready for permanent housing. After all, many of N-PUT’s clients have been jobless and homeless for years, even decades.
“You’re talking about your chronic homeless individuals [who] are suffering from serious mental illness and other issues that would not allow them to be suitable candidates for permanent housing,” Gore states. “While we do support the permanent housing issue, many of the homeless individuals need to be in a structured environment where they can feel safe.”It’s a disciplined setting that will assist those who aren’t ready for permanent housing. After all, many of N-PUT’s clients have been jobless and homeless for years, even decades.
Right now, the Empowerment and Housing Center is still in its first phase of development. In addition to applying for county funding, Gore and his team have sent donation letters seeking financial support, and reached out to local realtors in hopes of identifying and obtaining a building to operate the center. Likewise, N-PUT has teamed up with a grant writer in an effort to pursue grant opportunities.
For Gore, the pressing need for a building is two-fold: there’s only one men’s shelter in Prince George’s County, which he deems “shouldn’t be,” and N-PUT presently operates sans an actual office space. In lieu of a building, N-PUT meets with its clients in various libraries, where they break into groups and receive services.
“That’s why it’s important that we, as an organization, try to get us a building [a.s.a.p.] so that these individuals will be in a safe environment where they can have all their issues addressed, whether it’s GED or substance abuse,” Gore stresses. “Many of them are ashamed right now because of their circumstances and meeting at the library, having other individuals in the library, if you say, ‘I can’t read. I can’t understand that,’ that’s quite embarrassing. It does nothing for the self-esteem.”
But the N-PUT founder believes there’s an untapped resource in the county that could help the non-profit reach its goal: vacant school buildings. Instead of remaining unused, Gore says, these abandoned lots can be used to deliver direct services to the homeless. N-PUT’s attempts in acquiring such a space have proved fruitless, however.
Nevertheless, the lack of a building isn’t preventing N-PUT from realizing its mission. The clients it serves were once taxpaying citizens and homeowners in Prince George’s County who now struggle to subsist, and feel as though the help they need is far out of reach. And while the county is already doing a “great job” in aiding its homeless population, there’s a lot more that can be implemented and accomplished, Gore offers.
That’s where N-PUT comes in, filling in the gaps by offering the services Gore believes are lacking. And it will continue to do so, despite and in spite of the circumstances.
“We’re on a mission to revamp and save lives,” he affirms. “We will not stop until this happens.”