After 34 years of leading The Fortune Society, one of the preeminent nonprofit organizations that serve and advocate for people with criminal justice involvement, President and CEO JoAnne Page has announced her retirement effective December 31, 2023.
Throughout her tenure, JoAnne has increased the size of Fortune from 20 staff to more than 500 and the annual budget from $700,000 to more than $60 million. And, recognizing that the most basic, foundational needs of participants were not being met, she transformed the organization into one that not only provides advocacy and direct services but also housing to set people on a path toward meaningful transformation. Last year, The Fortune Society served more than 11,000 individuals with life-changing services. Behind these numbers lie the countless individuals, families, and communities that have been restored, revitalized, and given hope. Under JoAnne’s leadership, Fortune’s innovative and successful initiatives in New York have become models for similar programs throughout the country.
“I first worked for Fortune as a volunteer when I was 16 years old. My parents—Holocaust survivors—were long-time volunteers and fiercely committed to social justice. My life experience both at home and at work has taught me that people need hope. They need to see a bright future. And, no one should be defined by the worst thing they’ve ever done. That is what has informed my work at Fortune all these years,” said JoAnne Page, President and CEO, The Fortune Society.
She added, “It has been an honor to witness lives rebuilt and hope restored. Together, with a committed Board, executive team and staff, we have brought about profound, positive change in the lives of people impacted by the criminal legal system and in that system itself. In our work, we’ve been nimble and creative, and we have always prioritized the lived experiences of those we seek to support. Our dual mission of advocacy and services enables us to give people the services that they need while identifying and fighting against institutional barriers that trap people in the cycle of incarceration and damage to themselves and others. I will forever be humbled by the commitment that Fortune participants make when given the tools and hope to build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. For many, coming to Fortune and taking the opportunity that our services and community offer is a leap of faith in a world that has all too often provided them with a bleak and abusive past and no hope for a better future. My gratitude—for this opportunity to do this work and to be lifted up by my colleagues both within Fortune and in the broader community—is unending.”
“JoAnne’s retirement marks the end of a most dynamic era for The Fortune Society, one that saw a tremendous expansion of services and the founding and flourishing of an innovative real estate portfolio tailored to the needs of formerly homeless justice-impacted individuals that’s unmatched in this sector. There are simply not enough accolades to describe Joanne’s contributions and momentous achievements over her years as the Visionary and Leader of Fortune. JoAnne’s impact extends far beyond Fortune: she has been a tireless advocate, pushing for systemic change and challenging societal perceptions about those impacted by the criminal legal system. She has been relentless in her pursuit of innovative services to help individuals with justice involvement to rebuild their lives. Her legacy will endure, serving as a compass to guide us as we forge ahead. We are grateful to JoAnne and commit to building upon her remarkable achievements, ensuring that our work inspires future generations to champion compassion, hope, and second chances,” said Dennis Kozlowski, Chair of the Board of Directors, The Fortune Society.
The Board of Directors is running a comprehensive, open, and equitable search to identify the best candidate to lead The Fortune Society into the future. It will take on a rigorous and careful evaluation of the organization’s strong internal candidate alongside any external candidates who may emerge. To aid in this process, the Board has formed a succession committee and retained the services of Koya Partners/Diversified Search Group as this process advances.
JoAnne has been named one of the most effective nonprofit leaders by City & State during each year since 2018. Her long list of accomplishments at Fortune includes: creating a broad array of licensed substance abuse and mental health treatment programs; greatly expanding alternative to incarceration programs; creating HIV-specific reentry programs that have been funded on six separate occasions as Special Projects of National Significance; adding nationally recognized reentry residence, “The Fortune Academy,” to the agency’s portfolio; assembling and heading the team that raised $43 million to build a LEED Gold certified, 114-unit mixed-use homeless reentry supportive and affordable housing residence with an on-site service center; and providing—at New York State’s request—the technical assistance and fund-raising expertise to replicate Fortune’s mixed-use housing model for formerly incarcerated people experiencing homelessness and economically disadvantaged community members in upstate New York.
JoAnne’s affordable and supportive housing vision and her financing acumen have cemented her legacy. The Fortune Society’s real estate portfolio has significantly grown since the pioneering Fortune Academy (The Castle) opened its doors more than 20 years ago. Today, Fortune is currently operating housing in all five boroughs: The Castle, Castle Gardens, Freedom Houses I, II, III, and IV, The Mandaela Community, and scattered-site housing. As of this moment, on any night more than 800 formerly homeless justice impacted people are enjoying the safety and security of Fortune housing, where they can focus on important aspects of their lives without worrying about where they are going to sleep at night or how they will find their next meal.
JoAnne has laid the groundwork for three more supportive and affordable housing buildings to open in the next few years. Just Home, on the Jacobi Hospital grounds, will provide medically appropriate supportive housing for people with significant medical needs too great for the shelter system instead of being released from jail to homelessness or remaining in pretrial detention because of absence of housing, , Castle III will be a residence built on a currently vacant lot in East Harlem with solid community support. Harlem Castle IV, in a beautiful existing building on the upper West side that had formerly been run as an illegal hotel to the detriment of the neighborhood, will be renovated to provide still another housing resource, located in an incredible neighborhood of opportunity. All three of the buildings will have cutting-edge green features and will be mixed supportive housing for formerly homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals as well as affordable housing for low-income community members, building on the successful Castle Gardens model.
Fortune’s formula for success in securing community buy-in for these projects has been transparency, community partnership, and responsiveness. As a result, Fortune’s existing housing projects and forthcoming East Harlem and Upper West Side buildings have been embraced by their new neighbors and continue to have strong community support. Just Home is facing significant community opposition, as we had faced with our first Castle in West Harlem over twenty years ago. We are now an established presence and acknowledged resource that is deeply welcome in our West Harlem community, and we anticipate turning the fear and opposition for Just Home into similar support once we build trust in the community by showing that our presence is not a threat but is a resource.
And thanks to JoAnne’s passion for innovation and history of building strong partnerships over the years, Fortune is partnering with FJC in piloting a new way of accessing funding that meets a previously unmet need. Thanks to a novel funding source—donor-advised revolving funds through FJC—Fortune now has a possibly replicable solution to the problem that nonprofits often face: not having money on hand to move swiftly on housing development.
About The Fortune Society
Founded in 1967, The Fortune Society has advocated on criminal justice issues for over five decades and is nationally recognized for developing model programs that help people with criminal justice histories to be assets to their communities. Fortune offers a holistic and integrated “one-stop-shopping” model of service provision. Among the services offered are discharge planning, licensed outpatient substance abuse and mental health treatment, alternatives to incarceration, HIV/AIDS services, career development and job retention, education, family services, drop-in services, and supportive housing as well as lifetime access to aftercare.
Fortune has a dual mission of services and advocacy. We use what we learn from our justice-impacted staff and leadership and from the people we serve about the obstacles that people with criminal histories face to inform and fuel our advocacy work.