Six months in jail changed Anthony. Rampant violence made personal safety precarious and, instead of learning to properly address negative behavior, the oppressive environment encouraged defense of it.
“Jail…hardens you,” he says.
Upon his release, he was given a Metro card and little else. Without a close family network, he was immediately faced with housing insecurity, an all too common issue for individuals with justice involvement. Luckily, he heard of The Fortune Society, and reached out to us for help.
Fortune staff member Crystal Lopez became his lifeline to vital support. She led him to The Fortune Academy (“the Castle), our Emergency and Transitional Supportive Housing program, where he has stayed ever since.
“I think it’s a wonderful place and they’re doing very good things. And I don’t see stuff like that—ever. I receive meals three times a day. We have discussions in the morning and 9:00 at night. It’s really good. They’re doing a lot for people, a lot for everybody.”
For Anthony, a positive HIV status requires additional care. Undeterred, our Health Services program connected to him proper medical treatment, where he learned the best ways to manage his health, and discovered specialists to address challenging symptoms.
“If I wasn’t at Fortune, I don’t know what I would do. I lost my house in Long Island because I was incarcerated. I have no family out here. I don’t know what I would’ve done—probably back in the streets, doing something wrong.”
Being at Fortune also illuminated new career possibilities in HIV advocacy: “I want to let everybody know that it’s going to be ok. I want to tell my story, I don’t want people to be sad.” Building on this message, Anthony is now an advocacy apprentice within our David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP). In his role, he teaches the community the advantages of safe sex practices, and gives words of encouragement to individuals with a positive diagnosis.
“I talk to people at ‘the Castle’ who have HIV. I even talked to somebody just the other day. He feels so sick. I was like, ‘Did you take your pills?’ He’s like ‘No—I’ve been missing it a couple times.’ You gotta stay on it. It’s not the end of the world.”
Indeed, Anthony’s new journey has only just begun. In the future, he wants to continue in advocacy, helping others find the hope he has discovered: “I definitely want to work in the HIV field now—a counselor, whatever. Anything I can do.”
Like Anthony, we’re here for individuals with justice involvement in any way we can. Since 1967, we’ve held firm to the belief that all people deserve opportunities to succeed. And the thousands of lives we have impacted since our founding is testament that this belief system works.
As Anthony says, “…there are a lot of people who need multiple chances and Fortune is working hard. They’re doing everything here. They’re doing health services, they’re doing employment…it’s a one-stop shop.”