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Instilling Change: Austin Aletano

Austin Aletano describes himself as “your average Joe guy.” He dresses in denim coveralls, takes pride in his work, and enjoys spending time with his kids and talking to his mother. It’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago, his life was in chaos, and heading toward incarceration. Like many Second Chance clients, Austin struggled with addiction and had to take the long journey out of it.

Before he was incarcerated, Austin says he was selfish, and unable to consistently be a good father or son. His lifestyle caused him to be arrested and sentenced to prison in 2018, but incarceration didn’t change much for him. Besides participating in a work-release program, he did little to prepare for his return to society, and when he did, it was a culture shock. He struggled to find a routine for himself after having one set and struggled to socialize with others. It was hard to find a job, as well. Even places he expected to be able to work, like Walmart, required background checks.

For about two weeks, he stayed in a hotel and worked there in exchange for food and cigarettes. He called his mother and asked for help, but she told him she couldn’t help anymore. All she was able to do was call the Healing House for him, but it was a move that changed his life. He moved into the Healing House where he received help with his alcohol and substance use, therapy sessions, and parenting classes. Austin was able to get a job while he was at the Healing House. He searched on Craigslist for what was nearby, and walked down to a railyard. He obtained a job driving a forklift.

Austin heard about Second Chance at an AA meeting, about a year after moving to the Healing House. He was thinking about moving and giving someone else an opportunity at the Healing House, but between his poor credit and his background checks, he was having trouble finding a place to rent. Second Chance was able to help him find a place that would rent to him, but when asked what the most helpful part of the program was, he said, “There’s a lot.” His Resource Specialist helped him learn to budget and gave him information on his rights as a tenant that he still references now. When he was thinking about leaving his job, his Resource Specialist helped him lay out all his options and make a clear decision.

Although Austin did leave his job at the railyard for a time, it didn’t work out. He went back to welding, which is what he likes to do, but was let go after three months. When he was let go, he called his former boss at the railyard and asked if they would take him back. His boss asked when he could start. A year later, he was promoted to his boss’s position. In just a little over two years, he went from Forklift Driver to Operations Manager. It’s an impressive accomplishment, but he isn’t boastful. At the suggestion that he must have done a lot of good work at the railyard, all he said was, “Here and there.”

Today, it’s hard for Austin to wrap his head around the life he used to live. Three years ago, he was homeless. With the help of community resources, he has stable housing and has his kids in his life. He has two sons, ages seven and one and a half, that he sees every weekend. They like to have Nerf battles, and whenever it’s hot outside, you can find them fishing. His relationship with his mother has improved, too, and they talk almost every day. For Austin, the change in his life is largely thanks to the supportive resources he found. When asked for advice for others in his situation, he said, “Utilize your resources. They’re out there.”

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