Now that his immediate needs aren’t a daily struggle, Collins can make plans to rebuild his life.
It’s remarkable how far 27-year-old Collins has come since being released from incarceration just a few months ago. Upon release, he called The John Howard Society, and to Collins’ surprise the person at the other end of the line was Matthew Burt, a friend he’d met a long time ago under completely different circumstances.
“I knew I could count on John Howard Society because I had relied on them before, but I didn’t expect to hear Matt’s voice.”
The two began working together on a plan to get Collins’ life on track through a United Way-funded transition support program that assists people before, during, and after release from incarceration.
Matthew says his job as a transition worker at The John Howard Society is to make sure nobody has to walk through life alone. “We offer food, clothing, shelter and a whole host of other wrap-around supports. We give people something to build from,” Matthew says.
Collins came into conflict with the law during the height of the pandemic. He was struggling with hazardous living conditions at the time and wasn’t able to find a safe place to live.
I believe that unsafe housing was the root cause of my incarceration. I’d been fighting with my building managers for several months to address the issues in my apartment like cockroaches and the smell of gaseous fumes.
“I’d reached out to people for help, but those I’d reached out to were either unwilling or unable to do anything.”
Making matters worse, Collins had also been dealing with undiagnosed PTSD after witnessing someone close to him attempt suicide.
“I’d called an ambulance at the time and stayed with them until help arrived. I was in real shock having seen someone I cared about almost die. After that I was a complete mess, and I did not get the support I’d needed.”
Now that his immediate needs aren’t an everyday struggle thanks to The John Howard Society, Collins has been able to work towards his goals of pursuing education and employment in the renewable energy field. He’s found a place to live and is making a plan to attend a post-secondary institution.
This is really just the start of Collins’ journey. He knows that he faces more barriers to employment, long-term housing, and just navigating systems. But with support from Matthew and The John Howard Society, he feels better prepared.
I know I have it in me to get myself to where I want to be. I had good intentions all along, and I’d hate to see anyone else suffer the way that I have. That’s why I’m sharing my experiences so that people can see the systemic barriers I’ve faced and understand how important programs like The John Howard Society really are.