Last Friday I facilitated a focus group at Fairview, the only residential reentry center in Washington, DC for women. The purpose of the focus group was to determine the needs of the women and to discover the challenges women in reentry are facing while living in the halfway house.
I was almost moved to tears as the women spoke at length about child custody issues, the need for transitional housing, and mentoring. One of the women said, “We need more women like you who understand our process.” I was moved and humbled. I was also inspired.
Since I have been home, I have always met the right people at the right time. My family did not support me a great deal when I came home, but I have several mentors and peers who have been by my side since day one.
Having unconditional social support is critical in the reentry process I am honored that I have had a network of friends and supporters who understand my plight, even without them saying so.
The staff members at the halfway house who don’t seem to “get it” challenge the residents. Moreover, they don’t feel the staff has what it takes to appropriately serve their population. Maybe they lack empathy, or maybe they are so overwhelmed with their own personal issues that they can’t see past the fog.
One woman stated that if she knew that the staff would be so uncaring and so insensitive at the halfway house, she would have stayed in prison until her term was complete. The women in the halfway house pay a portion of their earnings to live there.
According to the residents, the staff does not assist with job training, obtaining employment, or transportation. One lady who is a senior said, “I just want to have to stop hopping the bus when I go out to my appointments.” When I asked her what that means she said, “I stand at the back of the bus and when it opens I get on the back of the bus rather than getting on at the front of the bus because I don’t have money to pay. The staff here refuses to give me tokens.”
I want so much to be able to aid and assist these women. Admittedly, at times I feel like it’s too great of a charge. Nevertheless, I believe that when you have a mission in life you have to pursue it with your whole heart and mind. Sometimes you can’t worry about the how. These women need women in their corner who get it. I get it.