Two vehicles staffed with people and the resources to help downtown Detroit’s homeless residents will be able to continue to cruise city streets because of the creation of the $4 million Roger Penske Detroit Fund.
The program, called 2-1-1 On the Go!, is operated jointly by the Downtown Detroit Partnership, the United Way of Southeast Michigan, Strategic Staffing Solutions Inc. and Roger Penske.
DDP Chair Cynthia Pasky, founder, president and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions, said the endowment initially was funded by $2 million from a charitable foundation attached to the now-defunct Collins & Aikman Corp.
That amount will now be matched by $2 million in private contributions. The source of funding was not disclosed.
The fund will be administered by the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan.
Two 2-1-1 On the Go! teams patrol downtown streets looking to help homeless individuals. The vehicles, donated by Penske, are equipped with wireless Internet access that allows them to provide eligible homeless Detroiters with tools to overcome the barriers to employment and permanent housing.
The services are part of the United Way’s existing 2-1-1 program that connects people with job training, substance-abuse treatment, assistance with heating, food, housing, utilities and mental health counseling.
Penske serves on the DDP board as vice chair, but stepped down as chair earlier this fall after almost five years. The 2-1-1 program was created three years ago during his chairmanship.
During those three years, 2-1-1 On the Go! served more than 1,600 homeless people and enrolled nearly 250 of them in a program to help them. More than 100 homeless found full-time jobs and 75 are in permanent housing.
Pasky said the new fund is a perfect way to honor Penske’s contributions to Detroit.
“For all the things that he does — the billion dollar companies, the racing victories and all of his other accomplishments — I think the most important thing he has done is allow something to happen that has probably saved the lives of at least 100 people in the last three years,” she said in a press release.
Correction: An earlier version of this story omitted the names of two of the supporters of the 2-1-1 On the Go! program. This version adds those names.