One of the hardest things to do as an ex-offender is to reintegrate into society. Depending on how long you were imprisoned for, you may return to the world to discover that all of the skills and knowledge that you had before prison have become irrelevant. Without a job, you’ll find it hard to get by at even basic tasks like finding housing or shopping for groceries.
Reentry after prison is tough work. Fortunately, there are lots of resources to help ex-offenders return to normal lives after prison.
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Getting Help with Housing
Not all ex-convicts will find a family waiting for them after prison. The tough reality is that family and friends will often move on while you’re in prison, changing their contact information by chance or on purpose and making it difficult to get help. However, finding shelter is one of the most important things when it comes to re-entering society as a ex-offender. Once you have a place to stay, even temporarily, you’ll be able to make a serious effort to find work and reintegrate yourself into your community.
If you’re having trouble finding a place to stay while you get back on your feet after prison, here are some resources that you can reach out to.
- Contact local churches. Churches and other religious organizations are often the first line of defense against homelessness for ex-convicts. A good church will either be able to provide housing directly or point you towards local resources that help ex-prisoners get back on their feet.
- Contact the government. Depending on the nature of your criminal history, you may be able to get help from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In particular, Section 8 of the Housing Choice Voucher Program is designed to assist people without much income in meeting their rent payments. As a newly released ex-convict, there’s a good chance that you will fall into this low income bracket. However, as you might expect, government programs don’t always move quickly — don’t plan on getting Section 8 assistance on your first night out of prison.
- Find halfway houses in your area. Halfway houses exist to help people transition from prison back to a normal life. Organizations like the Volunteers of America can help to connect you with halfway houses near you.
Getting Help with Food and Groceries
Once you have a place to stay while you work to get back into a normal life, you will need to make sure that you know where your next meal is coming from. Fortunately, there are resources to help anyone, include ex-convicts, who needs a good meals to get back on their feet.
- Visit your local soup kitchen. Soup kitchens exist to provide a hot healthy meal to anyone who needs it, no questions asked.
- Apply for food stamps. In most cases, felons are able to get food stamps. In six states (Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming) ex-offenders with drug convictions are prohibited from getting meal assistance, but otherwise ex-convicts can get food stamps. If you’re able to, apply for food stamps to take some of the stress off while you reintegrate into society.
Getting Help Finding a Job
Once you have a stable foundation after your release from prison, the next step is to find a job. However, employers are often suspicious of ex-convicts, making it hard to re-enter the workforce. You may also find that many of the skills you developed in your previous career have become antiquated, as more and more jobs revolve around the fast-changing world of technology. Try these things to get a job as an ex-offender after reentry.
- Update your resume. Even with limited employment history, it’s important to show off each and every skill that you have. Make sure to include any skills that you learned from education programs while in prison.
- Repair your credit. Along with background checks, many employers will also check your credit before hiring. This is one reason why it’s important to repair your credit after prison.
- Dress for success. One key to nailing a job interview is to show up looking the part. If you dress nicely, that will show potential employers that you take your work seriously and generally give you an air of confidence and professionalism. If you need nice clothes to wear to your interview, local organizations like the Salvation Army can connect you with professional attire.
- Seek out companies that hire felons. Not all employers are willing to take the risk of hiring an ex-convict. You may have better luck by applying for jobs at companies that hire felons. No matter where you apply, be sure to make a point of your changed nature — show employers that you’re ready to move forward as a productive member of society.
Other Helpful Organizations and Programs to Know
- Map of State Departments of Correction — When it comes to reentry after prison, your local Department of Correction should be your first stop. They will have the pulse on the resources and reentry programs that are available in your area.
- Restore Your Voting Rights — Voting in local and national elections is a critical part of your reentry into society. If your state allows it, regain your voting rights after leaving prison.
Re-entering the world after prison is difficult, but it’s not impossible. Take advantage of local resources in your area to find shelter and food while you work towards getting a job. In time, you will be able to stand on your own two feet with your criminal history behind you.
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