by: t.k. woods
There are various reasons for homelessness. Often the reason is alcohol or drug addictions. Many of our homeless suffer from severe mental illness, but a portion of our homeless are ex-offenders. We sometimes overlook our ex-offenders needs because we see them as ex-convicts who need to lie in the bed they made, but when one person is affected all of us are affected.
While I was selling the Street Chronicle, I spoke with one Mr. Scott of Cleveland who says he finds it hard to find a job with his record. “Even low standard [temporary labor] agencies now want full background checks,” he says. “Once your time is served you should be allowed back into society…How can you succeed or progress if you cannot work?”
Mr. Scott says he is going to apply for school soon and hopes to get a grant. I informed him from my past knowledge that he may not be able to get a grant depending on his reason for conviction. Upon light research I found out that I was wrong. After seeking information from the Women’s Re-Entry, I found that yes, drug charges are a hindrance to ex-offenders attempting to go to school but this barrier is able to be overcome.
Agencies such as the Community Re-Entry and the Women’s Re-Entry are programs through the LMM (Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry) that assist ex-offenders in just about every area. The Director of the Women’s Re-Entry Network was generous to lend her time to me to obtain information about the services provided there. They help with tending to any mental or behavioral issues that may hinder future endeavors to job search or pursuing education. They help women to prioritize their goals and dreams for the future. The women are afforded case management by a licensed social worker to assist them in their plan, give clarity about their options, and give support.
Women’s Re-Entry does not offer job services, but can direct persons to services that provide clothing for interviews such as Dress for Success. Likewise, women seeking schooling can be directed to programs that they otherwise may not have known about such as the Women in Transition program that helps women by placing them in a school setting and showing them how to navigate in a place that could be intimidating to a newcomer. CEOGC, Catholic Charities, and Northcoast Recovery, which is also re-entry specific, are other programs that people can be directly linked to through Women’s Re-Entry.
Community Re-Entry assists both men and women in all areas of the re-entry process. It offers many of the same programs and assistance as the women’s re-entry, but also help with seeking employment, clothing and hygiene items, and assistance in enrolling for school. Community Re-Entry has served the community some forty years and they are here to assist in any way possible in for those trying to stabilize after a period of incarceration. Community Re-Entry has been part of advocacy that has moved the issue forward to remove the question “have you been convicted of a felony” from City employment applications. The agency plans to continue advocacy to accomplish the same on a county and state level. Community Re-Entry also works with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) on reducing collateral consequences.
In addition to Community Re-Entry’s services to ex-offenders they also provide preventative and intervention services to at risk youth who are at high risk of future incarceration. With this short informative letter to the public, I wish to be an encourage ex-offenders who truly want a new start to call and to support the agencies that assist these men and women in getting back on their feet.
To the ex-offenders, the road to re-entry may be difficult, but it is not impossible. To all others, if you see a sister or brother grasping to resurface in this race throw them a help line. Each one reach one and teach one.
FYI- Staying connected through resources such as literature that pertains to you and your challenges is a good way to assist yourself and your cause. Here are some additional resources to use for those struggling with re-entry issues.
v You can learn more about the Re-Entry and ODRC collaboration by going here: www.drc.ohio.gov/web/collcons4.pdf.
v The CIVICC database is currently under construction as improvements are made but available for use at http://opd.ohio.gov/CIVICC/Home.asps/Dosearch. This site allows you to do a search on a specific offense and then retrieve the information.
v For more information about the programs of Community Re-Entry check out their web site www.lutheranmetro.org/communityre-entry .
v Receive a Going Home to Stay Guide by calling first call for help at (216) 436-2000 or download a copy at www.211cleveland.org/pdfs/communityreentry.pdf.
v The Cuyahoga County Reentry Review is a courtesy of the Cuyahoga county office of reentry. You can write to them at Cuyahoga County- Office of Reentry 310 West Lakeside Avenue, Suite 550 Cleveland Ohio 44113 or on their web site www.reentry.cuyahogacounty.us or calling (216) 698-3437
Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Cleveland Street Chronicle #19.1 April – May 2012