"My mindset started to change," recalled Kendrick when thinking about the time that's passed since the HandUp launch in July. "You're picking me up for work, we're never late...we're learning life skills, we didn't have life skills before, we were dependent on drugs...we have a clean mindset now."
The 2022 HandUp Program is serving 5 men at moderate to high risk of recidivation - going back to a state of incarceration - here in that state with the highest incarceration rate in the world. These gentlemen, along with their other cohort members, statistically face a 1 in 3 chance of going back to jail or prison, and a staggering 66% statistical unemployment rate for previously incarcerated people.
"I have family that helps but I feel like a burden to them," says David Chambliss, " I chose this program because I want to try and do it on my own. When you come home from jail you're starting all the way over, and when you are starting all the way over, it's so easy to go back into the old lifestyle and fall into bad habits. This program helps with housing, jobs, work ethic, and is beneficial all the way around. It's easy to fall victim and this place uplifts you."
"I'm getting the resources I'm needing, the people I need to, to get on my feet. I want to own my own business, that's my goal." says Rechail Johnson.
Johnson believes in helping others and discovering what resources are out there for men and women who have similar lived experiences. "I come back and share what resources are out there that I learn about so that we can share information. I like to come and talk to the other guys and they help me too."
Just like Rechail, Kendrick and David have goals for their careers after the program ends in December.
David: "I want to get my degree in engineering, buy a house, and have a relationship with my kids."
Kendrick: "Mr. Rechail is helping me get resources, and I want to get my TLP and drive trucks. But I need to build up my skills to that. I want to see the ball drop, the golden gate bridge!"
Each of the men feel a sense of gratitude for their participation. "Thank you for accepting someone like me into this program." says Kendrick. "I was never a church guy, but after listening to the pastor and Mr. James, they're speaking about God in real life terms. It's soul searching. Once we go to a program that helps us learn who we are, it's so inspirational. I never thought I'd be in a program where people like me.
"The staff is talking to us and encouraging us which we all need. I'm thankful." says Rechail.
With the HandUp program here at the Christian Outreach Center, generational cycles of trauma, violence, hardship, and incarceration are broken. Minds and hearts are changed and lives are transformed. The COC is walking hand-in-hand to meet the needs of men leaving the Justice System in Baton Rouge. And this is just the beginning!
Stay tuned for the transformative journey of David, Rechail, and Kendrick, as they continue to learn and work in the program. Their work in changing their lives isn't easy but it's easier as we cheer them along the way and give them the support they need!