An organization that helps former inmates transition back into their communities in Onslow and Jones Counties is getting a $225,000 state contract.
Since the Onslow-Jones Resource Reentry Council formed five years ago, it has relied on volunteers, said Dan Whitten, one of the organization's board members. Operating only on volunteer support, the organization has helped 150 former inmates in need of housing, work, transportation and health care in the last two years, he said.
"These are folks ranging from just got out of jail, no idea where to go, homeless, jobless, hungry, undiagnosed schizophrenia, and we are able to take them from that point, empowering them not enabling them, there’s a big difference," he said. " I know there's one. He was homeless, 18 years old and wanted to learn about nursing, so I hooked him up with some resources at Coastal. He is now a charge nurse at Wake Med in Raleigh.”
The reentry council connects former inmates with a host of career building resources, including job fairs, resume and interview workshops, transportation and academic courses, Whitten said. Part of the $225,000 grant from the state department of public transportation will help pay for more supportive services like these, he said.
“Help getting tuition, help getting maybe books. If you have served time, and you maybe want to be a welder. OK, sweet," he said. "We’ll help you with tuition if you need it, and with the supplies, tools – scrubs for CNAs or phlebotomists, whatever you need.”
With about 500 inmates expected to transition into their communities in Onslow and Jones Counties next year, the need for the reentry council’s services is great, Whitten said. The council plans to hire three full-time staff to help people who’ve spent time behind bars, before, during and after their release into the community, he said.
“We aren’t just giving people money. This is all infused with case management, which this money also goes to hiring three staff because we are duel counties Onslow and Jones. That gives us a case manager for Onslow, a case manager for Jones County and the local reentry coordinator which helps network and bridge all the gaps,” he said.
Because the state department of public safety’s contract lasts only one year, the reentry council will develop new ideas to sustain itself, Whitten said.
The council is one of 18 others across the state, including the Craven-Pamlico Reentry Council, which also recently received a $225,000 state contract. The grants come after Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation in October to establish a statewide collaboration of reentry councils.