At Fortune, acceptance is a part of our culture. Regardless of someone’s past mistakes, we believe in their capacity to move forward and succeed. In addition, we celebrate the spectrum of identities that comprise the Fortune community—through this diversity, we are strengthened each day.
After spending nearly 10 years in prison, Ron walked through our doors with a desire to thrive. Early in his sentence, he learned about Fortune and began preparing for reentry. He wrote to us and we responded with words of encouragement and hope. “They said that they offer all types of services,” he shares, “and when I get out, I’m always welcome to [connect with them]—so, that’s what I did.”
Upon release, however, Ron faced an advanced world, “Everything’s changed. Everyone has a smartphone—it’s so normal,” he notes. But our compassionate staff were there to walk him through the changes. He started participating in our Employment Services program, strengthening his knowledge base through its Soft Skills Job Readiness Training program and Transitional Work program. From the very first day, Ron discovered an environment that welcomes all that he is:
While he was a participant, it became apparent to Fortune staff members that Ron’s perspective and skill set would be an impactful addition to their team. “Fortune always really wanted me,” he shares, “There was a big joke here amongst a lot of the guys in Employment Services [where they’d say] ‘You don’t work here yet?’” Finally, after a round of interviews, he is a part of the team as an Account Manager, helping individuals who share his story of justice involvement find career success.
In addition to his professional skill set, Fortune also welcomes Ron’s identity as a proud gay man: “I was always openly gay [at Fortune] and I felt safe to express myself as openly gay,” he shares. His identity is affirmed by other LGBTQ+ staff members and supportive allies, as well as participants who can feel safe knowing that people like Ron personally understand their story.
Indeed, navigating incarceration as an LGBTQ+ individual often presents unique challenges. As Ron shares, each type of facility is different: “In federal prison, it was not a big deal [to be gay],” he notes, “guards knew, staff knew, [other individuals who were incarcerated] knew…” Time spent in state prison, however, was more challenging. Identifying as LGBTQ+ was not openly encouraged—and could even result in violence. “You didn’t show it,” Ron recalls, “If people knew it, fine, but you didn’t show it. It was much different than federal prison.” Because of this, LGBTQ+ individuals with justice involvement can particularly benefit from tailored support in places like Fortune. “…emotional support,” notes Ron, “…I think a lot of people are coming back and [they may not] have had a good support system in the first place.”
For LGBTQ+ individuals with health needs like HIV/AIDS, personalized reentry support is even more pertinent. Through advocacy initiatives, health services, and housing, we work to meet these needs, giving LGBTQ+ individuals with justice involvement resources to be their best selves. In celebrating Pride Month, we recognize that supporting individuals like Ron helps us all express ourselves—without restraint. As Ron shares:
Article by Root Stitches LLC