“I was incarcerated at 18,” said former resident Nakia during a recent visit back to Providence House V. “Coming home at 34. . . was like a baby coming into the world.” Many women in our re-entry program feel similarly. Though eager to return to their families and communities, many struggle with uncertainty and anxiety about how to live independently on the outside.
Another former resident who came back to see us, Teri, was in much the same position as Nakia as she approached her release date. Fortunately, both heard about Providence House from other inmates. They connected with staff and the Sisters of St. Joseph, were interviewed, and were accepted into the re-entry program, which consists of two residences in Brooklyn.
“Just because someone has made mistakes in their life doesn’t mean they can’t be a productive member of society,” said Teri. She and Nakia quickly proved that during their months at Providence House. Like all residents of these programs, they received case management services and life skills training to help them stabilize their lives and prepare to live independently. Working with Providence House’s case management and employment staff, Teri quickly found a building maintenance job, where she was later promoted to supervisor, then building manager. Nakia worked as a paralegal.
After they had established themselves and moved out into the community, Teri and Nakia kept in touch with staff and core community members at Providence House. Through grant funding from the Switzer Foundation, we provided tuition help as both women pursued their education. Both completed bachelor’s degrees, Teri in hospitality and hotel management and Nakia in legal studies.
Both women are actively reaching out to women now facing the same challenges they’ve faced. Nakia looks forward to assisting people who are not adequately represented or advised in legal matters. “So many people aren’t aware of their rights,” she said. “They need that assistance.” Teri, now an assistant facilities director for a multi-location nonprofit, stays in touch with our job developer, Robin Toyloy, and interviews and hires current residents who are ready for work and a good fit for one of her positions. “It’s a way to give back,” she said. “Now I can help them. I can repay Providence House a little bit.”