Though he came from a good family, Jerrid Wolflick got involved in the drug scene and developed a reputation as a troublemaker. After serving several years in prison in Oregon and Texas, he stood on the brink of freedom, frightened of what the future held.
After Bobby Boyd’s first release from prison, it took him just two months to fall back into drug use, and just three years to land back behind bars. As his second release drew near, he wondered whether things could turn out differently than they had the first time.
Both men could have played out a familiar scenario—returning to prison again and again as their drug use spiraled. But they didn’t. They both found safe, supportive, drug-free housing at Sponsors, Inc., a 38-year-old transitional living facility in Eugene, Oregon.
Jerrid has since graduated from the program and become a trusted staff member at Sponsors. Bobby, meanwhile, has marked 18 months of sobriety, and he says, “For the first time in my life, I wake up in the morning and I like the person I am.”
The Need for Options
Approximately 700,000 prisoners are released back into America’s communities every year. Two thirds will be re-arrested within three years, and the environment into which they transition plays a major role in their chances of success.
Jerrid believes that without a program like Sponsors, he would have gone back into prison, if only for the safety of the expected. “I was so overwhelmed when I got out that I know I would have found something to do to get back to safety for a very long time. For me, prison was safe, and the world was not,” he says.
For Bobby, a safe, sober living facility helped him break away from the criminal lifestyle he knew. “If I hadn’t gone to Sponsors, I would have been homeless, living on the streets, going from couch to couch wherever I could be,” he says. “I would have most likely gone back to the selling drugs and using drugs and ended up right back in prison.”
A Practical Difference
An ex-prisoner who becomes homeless faces enormous challenges when he tries to access services or find employment.
“Without an address,” observes Jerrid, “it is nearly impossible to get your birth certificate, social security card, state identification, or driver’s license. Without these, you cannot get a job in our society.”
By contrast, a well-run transitional living facility helps ex-prisoners achieve the concrete requirements of productive, law-abiding citizenship over the long haul, like identification, employment, and relationships with positive associates.
Bobby’s entrance into Sponsors was mandatory, but he couldn’t feel happier about being there. “I’ve never had something like this before,” he says. “I got here and I was welcomed by staff that had been through the same problems I have. They showed me to my room. I had new linens. I have one roommate and all the food I can eat. A weight room. A basketball court. An employment resource center.”
With safe, substance-free housing, regular meals, and supportive surroundings, Bobby has found a job and discovered the joys of sober living.
The Gift of a Chance
Of course, housing does not guarantee successful reentry for ex-prisoners. But it does offer a chance at success for those who want to change.
Jerrid found out about his acceptance into the Sponsors transitional living program six weeks before his release date. “For the first time since I had been incarcerated,” he remembers, “I felt like I might have a fighting chance of staying out.”
Bobby agrees. “[Stable housing] makes me feel stable in my life. It gives me that sense of I can instead of I can’t . . . I want to go back to school and become a case manager here at Sponsors. I want to buckle down and not give up.”