Community Partner Spotlight: Dean Amato, Homes for the Homeless

Dean picture

How long have you worked with the population you serve? In what capacity?
I have been a Program Associate at Homes for the Homeless (HFH) for just over a year. We operate four family homeless shelters and serve over 500 families. In this role, my main responsibility has been to coordinate donations and volunteers. I work with other non-profits, businesses, schools and regular people who are looking to donate their time or resources to
our families.

Did you participate in any clubs/activities or community service projects when you were in high school?
 In my junior and senior year, I volunteered at a daycare in the federal court building in Central Islip, NY. They had an on-site daycare for children whose parents were due in court. It was definitely rewarding; I was able to help out and it was pretty fun. It was a great experience and had a role in pushing me towards working for an organization like HFH.

What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of CTO?
Inspiration. The CTO volunteers inspire the children they work with. They are positive role models and the kids look up them.

What about the CTO program stands out to you? Why?
I’ve always been impressed by how quickly the volunteers engage the children. Sometimes volunteers can be a bit apprehensive and need some directive. The CTO students I work with are eager to spend time with the kids and quickly bond with them.

Describe your role and experience working with Changing the Odds.
I’ve been coordinating Changing the Odds visits at both our Prospect and Williamsbridge Family Inns for 15 months now. We’ve done spring field days, arts and crafts, literacy events, holiday parties and many other programs with both our after-school programs and our early childhood education centers. I plan the afternoon, take photos, and help share the work they are doing with my colleagues and the public through social media. The CTO events have been some of the most fun experiences I’ve had in this role.

What motivates you to build partnerships with other Bronx organizations?
At Homes for the Homeless, it is important that we engage with the greater community where our family shelters are located. In fact, we consider them community residential resource centers that not only serve the needs of families who are experiencing homelessness but also provide resources to the community. For instance, working with a group like CTO is part of our mission. We are helping teens from the Bronx gain valuable volunteer skills and learn about homelessness firsthand from children and staff in our centers. This is a win-win for everyone.