My name is Will. I am 14 years clean from drugs and alcohol. I did 13 years in state prison. I was released after 13 years in SCI Graterford. Life has changed. There were many fears when I got out about how I was going to make a new life for myself. About how things were going to be. If I could even, make it. Or if I would go back to prison. Upon my release, I gained employment at Vantage Foods where I was promoted to a mechanical operator in there roll stock department. This is my first job that I have held for more than a year. I have made many new friends who have become vital to my support system. I just recently made my one-year anniversary of being out of prison. This year has been many new experiences for me and a lot of first-time experiences. The Program’s Housing Assistance program has allowed me to manage and save my money. I was able to budget my money and can now look into purchasing a car. I owe my success to the help I received by my prison mentor Robert Rhodes from the Pennsylvania Prison Society, who worked with The Program and helped me find my place where I now live and who was my go between in communicating with the outside; The Program that has been there to guide me in my first year out; and to Keith Sultzbaugh, CEO of Accountable Prison Ministries, who is my mentor through The Program. Keith has not only been my mentor. I consider Keith a good friend who has helped me in times of need and has helped me gain my own furniture so I can own my own stuff.
The Program has helped me because, by them paying my rent, I was able to catch up on other bills. It took stress off of me for the 6 months knowing that my rent would be paid, on time, every month. The Program assisted me in tension I was having with my landlord. It allowed me to take money that I would have had to pay for rent and do special things with my mom, my brother and my nieces so we can make memories and bond, being I was locked away upstate for three years. The financial literacy class was good and it helped me learn about saving my money and understand my credit. Anytime I needed to talk, they would listen to me.
I have been coming to The Program for almost a year. Working with The Program has been a good experience. The Program helped me find a good place to live. When they started paying my rent, I was able to catch up bills, back payments and save money. I was able to buy a car with the money I saved. The financial literacy classes are helpful, too. It helped me learn to manage my money and save even more. I still use the budget sheets they gave us at home. Working with The Program has been great and can be life changing, as long as you use the help right.
After serving 10 years, I came back to Harrisburg to begin rebuilding my life. I have been working with the housing assistance program for about a year and a half. The staff at The Program is encouraging and working with them is a one of a kind experience. I am grateful for what they did for me and my wife. The financial assistance has been great and right on time. It helped me and my wife put our lives back together. I was able to save money and build my credit. The financial literacy class gave me major insight on ways to achieve opportunities for me and my wife. The staff helped a brother to keep focused and achieve my goals as well as stay out of trouble.
When I first came into the program I was very scared. I wanted help. I am a very young mother with 3 beautiful children that need a good mommy. I came here with an open mind and willingness to learn. The last 2 months have changed me in so many ways. I have grown as a woman and a parent. I have formed a bond with the other ladies in The Program, along with the girls in work release. I have learned that I am a person of importance and I matter. I have made mistakes. I don’t need to stay stuck in those mistakes anymore. I also have some guilt for the things I have done but I am finally able to move past them. I now know I am worth having a good life. The Program doesn’t just deal with teaching parenting skills, it’s about having more support systems in your life. Without The Program I’m not sure if I would be able to know my own worth. I deserve to have my children today. I will keep showing up!
After spending 18 years within the confines of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, I believed there was very little anyone could do to assist with my reentry. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong! While some other well-meaning groups talk, the folks at The Program put in the work. More specifically they have been willing to work as hard as I have to become a successful reentrant.
From before the date of my release the folks at The Program were professional and courteous. They understand the challenges and realities of reentering society. Since that time and through my release the folks at The Program have provided much needed guidance and insight, and not only directly but also through a vast network of professionals who genuinely want to help reentrants.
The Program has helped me to find a safe place to live, navigate the complexities of finding work, dealing with the government for food and medical assistance, putting me in touch with a professional to help sort out my financial future, finding me a mentor, and so much more. Reentry takes work if you’re willing to put in the effort the folks at The Program will be right there with you shining the light showing you which tools to use and how to use them to get and stay free.
I’m living my success story every day. It’s slow but I am moving forward. I am very patient with my situation and I manage to wake up every day happy at Work Release. I didn’t know what self-esteem was or my self-worth. I give myself affirmations every day. The picture of how amazing I am becomes clearer every day. I was so out of focus before. The Program has really instilled the feeling of hope. Seeing woman who have been worse off then me and are doing well is an inspiration. I no longer let my past define me. I do embrace it as part of my story now. I’m looking forward to using the education towards being a better parent. I want to be a more positive role model in my children’s lives. Today I am able to stand tall and take steps to rebuild the damaged relationships that my actions have caused.
I write this as a letter of gratitude for the act of kindness and caring that was provided to me. I received rental assistance and, because of the rental assistance, I was able to make the adjustments from prison to society much more realistic and doable. One may ask, how? First, I felt a sense of security knowing that I had a roof over my head until I could get on my feet. This was more than the boost that I needed. With the money saved, I was able to fix my credit and purchase a used car so that I could get back and forth to work. I was able to help out with the financial cost of raising my 12 year old son. More than anything else, it restored my faith in people as a whole. There are people that do care and really want guys like me to get back in the game of life and be productive men. To me, I never saw the help with the rent as a handout; I always saw it as a hand-up. The staff at The Program made sure that I knew it was a hand-up. To this day, I am grateful that my Parole Officer told me to go up to Derry Street and see the staff at The Program. It was never about a check from The Program – it was about a group of people who helped me get my life in order. The check was only a part of the process and, for that, I’m truly grateful.