Employed and In College

January 22nd, 2016

At age 50, Michael got a fresh start in life – and he is making the most of it, with Paul’s Place by his side. After being incarcerated for most of his adult life, Michael was released last December and began taking steps to turn his own life around and to help others like him.

Returning to the community after incarceration is a complex transition for anyone; in fact, the recidivism rate in Maryland – that is, the number of people who return to prison within three years of their release – is 40 percent, according to the Justice Policy Institute. Michael’s limited work experience, history of drug use, disability, and long incarceration combined to make his re-entry particularly challenging.  Michael worked as a housing manager while in transitional housing, but was turned down for similar jobs because he lacked the required education and license. He applied for college, but could not get financial aid because he had not registered for the selective service in the two months he was not in prison between ages 18 and 26. He also had no idea how he would find affordable housing when he needed to move out of transitional housing. He was not making headway on his own.

Luckily, Michael found Paul’s Place. He began volunteering to fulfill his community service requirement, and when he learned about the myriad resources available to him at Paul’s Place felt a sense of hope for the first time in months.

He joined our Ambassador volunteer program and set goals for housing, education, and employment with his coach. He started with the most immediate need: housing. Travis Ridgeway, our Housing Case Manager, worked with Michael to find a room for rent that was within his budget and accessible to public transportation. With financial assistance for the security deposit and first few months’ rent, Michael moved into his new home last June.

Then, Ellen Craven, our Goodwill Employment Specialist, and Paroma Nandi, our Director of Case Management, helped him take on his bigger goals: to get the education and work experience he needs to become a licensed addictions counselor and land a Peer Recovery Counselor position. Their first step was to help Michael appeal the rejection of his financial aid application. Paroma researched the appeal process, and Ellen helped Michael craft a letter explaining his circumstances and why financial aid is essential to him. Michael was granted an interview, made his case successfully, and was granted the financial aid he needed to enroll in college.

Michael also worked with Ellen to create his first resume, research employment opportunities, tailor his resume to the openings for which he was applying, navigate the online application process, and identify and reach out to the five professional references required for some applications. Michael was overjoyed when he got an interview in the first week of his job search and even more so when he was invited back for two more rounds of interviews. On his own initiative between interviews, he further researched the requirements of the job, determined he would need a ServSafe Food Handler certification, and took the course online. Michael got the job and started work in December.

Michael started his first semester in the Applied Sciences Associates degree program at Baltimore City Community College earlier this month and is working part-time at the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center of Catholic Charities – amazing accomplishments in a short period of time!