Helping Our Community RISE: How We Support Individuals Coming Home

Helping Our Community RISE: How We Support Individuals Coming Home

11/23/2022

The Fortune Society offers support and services throughout reentry, and our Transitional Services: Reentry for Individual Success and Elevation (RISE) program focuses on the first year after release. The RISE program, formerly known as I-CAN, provides skill-building, discharge planning, support in applying for identification documents and more.  

Milo Jones appreciates each component that makes Transitional Services/RISE the program that it is: he began his career at Fortune as a driver who would pick up new participants from Rikers Island and bring them to our Long Island City service center. He is now a Transitional Coordinator with RISE and brings many of the same skills to his current position.  

“I have a better understanding of where [the participants] are coming from because of the time I spent as a driver,” said Milo. “When I was a driver, I would talk to the [participants] and have a conversation in the car and then come back to the transitional coordinators and say, ‘this is what he needs and how we can help him.’ The staff we have now is sympathetic and open to listening in that way.”  

Milo sees a lot of value in consistency and building connections with people while they are still on Rikers Island to hopefully aid in their transition once released.  

“I think when you see a constant face and you’re about to get out and when you come to the community, you see those same faces...I think people feel a little more comfortable. They are so happy to see somebody that came and sat with them when they were on Rikers. Sometimes that might be the small thing that is what they needed to stay on track.”

Jordan Perry, Director of Community Services, echoes this sentiment and incorporates the power of familiarity into how the RISE program is structured: “We do transition plans with people who are coming home, and what we have found is that if a community-based staff member does a transition plan with somebody, they’re more likely to come to our community after they get released. They know somebody [at Fortune] and they know someone is going to have their back when they come here.”  

While Transitional Services/RISE has been a vital part of Fortune’s offerings for many years, the program continues to change and evolve with the growing needs of our community. Previously, people were only eligible for RISE if they had been on Rikers Island in the past year. RISE is pivoting to prevention. by expanding the pool of who qualifies. Now, anyone who has been arrested in the past year, with or without a pending case, or anyone who has received an order to appear in court for something as small as jumping a turnstile, can participate in RISE and be connected to the myriad offerings and related opportunities.  

Current programming includes weekly group facilitations on Rikers Island on topics such as parenting, anger management and more, as well as workshops on how to secure permanent housing in New York City.   

As the Transitional Services/RISE team continues to expand, the available groups and curriculum grow as well but always with input and guidance from participants. For example, an updated monthly orientation will enable RISE participants to build communities of support with one another.  

“Often times when people are coming home, they want support, but they don’t want to go back to their old neighborhood or their old groups of friends because maybe those were some of the reasons they were arrested,” Jordan explains. “We’re starting up a new orientation where we will have cohorts of all those who enrolled each month. Those will be ongoing groups and it’s a way for us to facilitate support within one another.”  

Jordan and Milo’s goals to be empathetic and supportive throughout the process of transitioning out of jail are certainly seen in practice: Michael came to RISE in June 2022 and has been very pleased with the service he has received since he joined the Fortune community. 

“When I came here, I didn’t expect much and I have been surprised. It only took a few minutes for me to see a coordinator and he had all these ideas of how to get me an ID, how to get my birth certificate and my social security card. I have everything I need now. Everything Fortune says they’re going to do, they do. They follow through.” 

Beyond the technical support, Michael appreciates the kindness and warmth of the staff he has encountered.  

“I just really appreciate the staff, the willingness of the staff and how they treat me like I’m somebody, not just a number.”

 Since Michael came to Fortune, he has participated in the three-week Employment Services workshop, has been accepted into the paid internship program and continues to check in with his Transition Coordinator on future plans for permanent housing.  

“I know that I have consistency here – I know that I am going to have work. I used to be afraid of not getting work and not getting money and not getting my ID. I’m not afraid of that now. I know I’ll be okay.”  

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