Individuals and families who are homeless undergo many challenges to move into self-sufficiency — trials with health, unemployment, financial setbacks, loss of loved ones, etc. Services offered in the community help to sustain them. Here is one of many of their stories.
OAR of Fairfax Helping to Rebuild Lives and Break Cycle of Crime
Allen was recently released from jail. He didn’t have a place to stay. He didn’t have a job, nor money or other resources. Allen had been in and out of jail for most of his 28 years. His relationship with family was strained and he could not ask them for support again. In addition, all local housing shelters were full. The upcoming days and weeks were going to be very difficult as he had no place to go.
OAR of Fairfax County is a nonprofit with a mission to rebuild lives and break the cycle of crime by employing opportunities, alternatives and resources for offenders and their families to create a safer community. It serves clients like Allen every day. Without support, many ex-offenders in Allen’s position return to crime because they simply don’t see any other opportunity. OAR services can provide the support that is necessary as ex-offenders transition to a self-sufficient crime-free life.
Thankfully, Allen reached out to OAR three months before he was released from incarceration. He started working with a volunteer mentor and planning for his future. Allen was ready to turn his life around and his mentor immediately recognized his determination to succeed. OAR staff, Allen and his mentor worked together to address emergency needs and attempt to manage life after incarceration without stable or safe shelter to rely on. Allen’s persistence paid off and he found a bed at a local shelter. Allen maintained a relationship with his mentor and with OAR for a period of 12 months. In that time, Allen demonstrated incredible resilience and persistence. He obtained employment, opened his first checking account, began paying child support and was able to rent a room of his own.
Allen’s story is one of great success. For some ex-offenders, the obstacles they face seem overwhelming; and not having housing magnifies the impact of the other challenges they face. Shelters are unable to “hold beds” for individuals being released from incarceration. Therefore, an inmate without a home plan is unable to set up shelter space in advance. Once released from jail, the homeless ex-offender simply needs to wait for bed space to open up. For Allen, that was a two-week process that involved staying with “friends” in environments that were not supportive of a crime-free lifestyle. Allen’s determination helped him through this difficult time. As a community, if we address the need for affordable housing, there can be many more stories like Allen’s and fewer individuals caught in the vicious cycle of crime that impacts all of us.