Restoring Citizens is a nonprofit helping formerly incarcerated individuals overcome barriers to employment, mental health issues and other challenges they face post-release. The Workforce Partnership works in collaboration with Restoring Citizens as a part of our Reentry Works program helping their clients find employment and develop their resume. Below, Restoring Citizens shares more about the work they do to address these challenges.
Can you talk about some of the challenges our community faces and how you’re working to overcome them?
Restoring Citizens works with individuals that our society has generally given up on by giving them a second chance. We serve formally incarcerated individuals and individuals who are on formal or informal supervision. This population faces many challenges including obtaining proper identification (such as social security cards and birth certificates), having bad credit and/or a lack of credit history, mental health issues, lack of work history and no rental history, to name a few. Restoring Citizens puts our clients on a pathway to successfully obtain the necessary documentation and skills to transition back into society.
We place individuals in jobs that offer career development opportunities and will nurture further career advancement. If we can place people in jobs where they are happy and understand what they are doing, they will not only feel a sense of pride, but will be less likely to quit and return to committing crime.
How else is your organization impacting the community?
Reinventing the reentry process needs to be done at every stage, including the community level. We do this by taking a holistic approach to engaging the community. For example, we have formerly incarcerated adults share their stories with justice-involved youth to direct them towards another path. We also speak with future public defenders and prosecutors to help them see justice-involved individuals as people rather than clients.
Any partnership highlights you’d like to share?
Restoring Citizens partners with several community organizations including Mission Fed who helps our clients open checking and savings accounts and rebuild and repair credit history, Always Ready who provides our clients with a variety of supportive services like funding to buy interview-ready clothing and practice their interview skills and Restorative Justice Mediation who conduct harm reduction workshops that teach our clients how to repair the harm done in their relationships.
How can San Diegans get involved?
The best way for San Diegans to support us is by becoming educated on the struggles individuals impacted by the justice system face and on the principals of restorative justice—a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large. If we can build a community that no longer judges our clients by their past, but instead understands that they are trying to change their lives for the better, we can create a better San Diego. If you want to learn more about the work we do or get involved, reach out to us on social media.
What else do you want the community to know about your org?
Restoring Citizens was founded and led by two formerly incarcerated men, George Chappell and Eddie Blajos. When released, they felt a calling to help others with similar experiences. They created a system of unique programs that cater specifically to the unmet needs of those reentering society, one of the first programs being a sober living program. We have since expanded to offering case management, weekly process groups and our newest program, Warm Hand Off, which will further allow us to assist our clients with housing navigation, employment, behavioral health and more.