Years ago, Adam was convicted of a felony. When asked about the time before that, he told me that he tries not to think about the person he was then. He was a reckless young man, focused entirely on what he wanted, and able to justify any decision if it made him happy. Today, that reckless young man is a lot more thoughtful. Every week in group therapy, he states his crime, and every week he adds, “I’m here to grow as a person, to be a better person to help better the world for everyone else.”
While he was on probation, Adam faced serious barriers in society. He lived with his aunt, but he wanted his independence back. When he looked for his own housing, he was turned down over-and over-again due to his conviction. Frustrated, he began to look for organizations that could help him, and he was referred to Second Chance.
It was in this program that he would build the skills he needed to find success again. For Adam, the most helpful aspect of the program was the “building blocks” that his Resource Specialist helped him lay. He was late to his first appointment, and she told him “See you next week,” laying down the first block: punctuality. From there, he learned how to represent himself to potential landlords and employers as well as how to budget and save money. These were all skills he would need almost immediately, when he lost his job.
Although he had a job when he entered the program, his workplace underwent a change of management, and his new manager ran a background check. When he found Adam’s record, Adam was terminated. For the next three months, Adam had to pivot from searching for a home to searching for another job. Although it was down to the wire, Adam was able to make it through months of unemployment because he had learned to build savings for housing and emergencies at Second Chance. Working with his Resource Specialist, he was able to practice job seeking skills regularly, landing several interviews at workplaces that just weren’t the right fit. Finally, he got an interview with a local trucking company. When asked why he left his old job, Adam told them, “I wasn’t honest with them.” He offered to tell them his conviction but was stopped. As a second chance employer, Human Resources told him they didn’t need to know his conviction. Adam was given a chance for a fresh start and took the job.
Employed again, Adam was able to look for housing. This time, he was equipped with knowledge of how to present himself, as well as community support. The apartment complex where Adam lives now gave him a chance, he says, because he had his probation officer, therapist, and Resource Specialist in his corner to vouch for him. Convinced that Adam was trying to do the right thing, the landlord took a chance on him.
Now, Adam is settled in both at home and with a promising career. He celebrated his one-year anniversary at work earlier this month. He loves his job, but he’s looking beyond it as well. His goal for the future is to buy property to rent to other reentering citizens in need of a second chance. “Because of my own bad decisions,” Adam told me, “I have learned a lot more about the society we live in.” He wants to help change the way society views felons, but without being able to vote, he knows the only way he can do that is with his actions. Every week, he owns his past actions, and he looks forward to a future where he can be part of the community network that helped him.