In January 2016, I reentered into the community after serving 19 years in prison. Women face unique experiences while incarcerated— their journey to successful reentry is no different. As a woman diagnosed with cancer, my path to a fulfilled life was especially challenged by a justice system unable to meet all of my needs.
Like other formerly incarcerated individuals, access to safe and affordable housing was an immediate concern. I particularly needed an environment that was sensitive to individuals with medical issues. Unfortunately, it seemed like homeless shelters were my only option. Though I did secure admission into a three-quarter housing unit, I had uncomfortable experiences while there, so eventually had to leave. Luckily, I remembered The Fortune Society.
While incarcerated, I heard about Fortune on the radio station, WBAI 99.5 FM, where founder David Rothenberg hosts a program highlighting issues of importance to individuals with justice involvement. Intrigued by his messages of hope, I researched The Fortune Society further, and was amazed at the many services they offered. Soon after, I began writing letters to David, hopeful that Fortune’s staff could help me find housing after release.
So, after the negative experiences I had with other housing options, I went to Fortune’s headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, and had dinner with David. He assured me that Fortune would help me move forward. True to his word, I immediately received a room through their Housing Program.
Today, I’m at peace. Fortune gave me a stable home to start rebuilding my life, one where I can safely address my medical needs. The residents and staff are supportive, and the neighborhood is safe and beautiful. But Fortune provides more than a place to stay. Here, I have found crucial resources and formed meaningful relationships to guide me through reentry. Thanks to Fortune, I hope to soon find my own apartment and obtain a Master’s degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Every day, many people are released from prison without homes to return to. There is a lack of safe and affordable housing for these individuals, especially women and people with medical needs. Thankfully, The Fortune Society is here for them. Fortune understands the importance of safe housing in the reentry process. I hope that its services will continue expanding, in order to help more justice-involved people rebuild their lives.