In 2014, six formelry incarcerated men used their own hands and their own money to turn an old bail bonds office into a home. Their mission was to provide a safe place to live for people recently released from prison so that they could grow into independent and self-sustaining citizens. Their motto from the start has been: "Us, Helping Us." They knew what formerly incarcerated people needed to succeed becuase they had been through it themeselves. They named the organization "The First 72+", a reference to the first 72 hours after someone is released from prison - the most crucial period of the reentry journey.
Over the last 6 years The First 72+ has grown into a full service, and holistic, reentry program, providing case management, peer mentorship, free legal services, financial life skills education, zero interest loans, and support with small business development. We have helped hundreds of people find gainful employment and stable housing, but today, through no fault of their own, nearly all of our clients are unemployed and at risk of losing their housing. COVID-19 has devestated our community, but it has not destroyed our spirit or weakened our client's motivation. We are still here to help, and our clients are still striving to reach their goals - but they need your help.
And despite the struggles our clients are facing, as we have checked in with our people we have been inspired and humbled by how often we are asked:
"What can we do to help the folks just getting out?"
"What about Clifford, how is he doing, he's 83 and shouldn't be going out, can I bring him groceries?"
"What about Jamal, he just came home and can't even look for work right now, how is he going to pay his bills?"
And just like our clients, our community has also reched out asking "What can we do to help?"
The answer to that is: Give.
All donations made through this platform will be doubled thanks to our friends at The Stand Together Foundation (up to $100,000). And those funds will go directly to our client's and their families to prevent the accumulation of debt and bill-delinquencies.
And anyone that donates more than $25 will get a cool "The First 72+ : Us, Helping Us" Tshirt (check out a photo in the slide show).
Anyone that donates at least $40 get a Hoodie! (check out a photo in the slide show)
[Just leave your size, address, and quantity in the comment box]
During the COVID-19 Quarantine The First 72+ continues to provide direct services to formerly incarcerated people and their families. We have converted our intake system to an over-the-phone process. We are administering our legal clinic and public benefits clinic over the phone as well, and we have added grocery, meal, and prescription drug delivery services to our repertoire of offerings. We have kept our 6 residents in our transitional house (all of whom are now unemployed) safe and fed. We have suspended loan payments, and converted our "pay it forward communal loan fund" into an emergency grant fund. Our Chaplain is also on call 24 hours a day to provide over the phone counseling.
We have also converted our "Rising Foundations Small Business Incubator" into a remote learning classroom. We purchased computers and wireless hot spots for our participants so that we can keep our Tuesday night classes running as scheduled. In the coming weeks we will also be convening individualized brainstorming sessions with our friends and supporters from around the world who have ideas and input for how our small business owners can grow and adapt their businesses.
Your donations, and the match from The Stand Together Foundation, will help keep food on the table for our clients out of work, it will help our clients pay their rent and utility bills so they are not evicted when the quarantine ends, it will put crucial technology in our client's homes so that they and their children can stay connected and informed, and it will help keep our small business owners from losing their businesses while they are unable to operate..
Our office shut down on March 16. Before we locked the door we prayed together. We have no idea when we will be back, and that is terryfying. But if the last 9 days have been any inidication of the potential of our community and our future, we only have reasons to be optomistic. Our community is strong, and we are at our best when we #StandTogether. Help us, help our community.