For 50 years, we’ve said “Welcome Home!” to thousands of justice-involved individuals. Without judgment, we give love consistently. It’s a part of who we are, and is felt inside each corner of our buildings. Fortune staff, a large percentage of whom have experienced justice involvement themselves, make sure to treat all participants with utmost compassion– they know that it is an essential step to success. “[Many] of our participants and staff members didn’t get a lot of love at home, so this is like their second home,” says Iraida Solano, Intake Worker with our Better Living Center (BLC).
For participants in need of mental health services through BLC, Iraida is often one of the first Fortune staff members that they interact with. Since joining Fortune in 2011, she has directed over 400 participants to appropriate care. Each one is empowered by her reassurances that everything is going to be OK. “It’s a natural thing for me,” Iraida notes, “I get a lot of attention from the participants because I’m always willing to extend…myself professionally for them.”
This kind of genuine concern can have a huge impact on one’s life, a fact that Iraida knows first hand. After experiencing incarceration, she was left without employment and housing security. She and her young son were then forced to navigate from couch to couch, in order to survive. “I never thought I could make it in the workfield,” she shares, “I thought it was over because of my history. But once Fortune gave me [an] opportunity, it gave me a different insight [to] life.” Having colleagues who deeply understood her story also helped her overcome the inequitable difficulty justice-involved individuals face when trying to obtain housing. “I would still apply and go on housing interviews, but [no opportunities were available to me,]” says Iraida, “[Finally,] I said ‘I just have to take a couple of days off and [focus]. Fortune was very understanding about that. That’s what really helped me: my Fortune family. It made my transition a little easier to deal with.”
Successfully transitioning from a life of justice involvement to a productive future needs this type of love. In large part, it’s the reason why we not only offer solutions for participants to meet basic needs, like SNAP and Medicaid application assistance through our Single-Stop program, but also opportunities to thrive in the creative arts. “[Participants] are amazed when they’re drawing,” Iraida notes, “[They often say] ‘I never knew that I had this talent.’ Art makes them feel like they…did something positive and good.”
Like our art teachers, case managers, and more, Iraida does positive work that impacts lives every day. She contributes to a regenerative workplace culture that puts people first at all times. Regarding her Fortune family, she shares, “…if you’re going through something, if you need to scream, or go to somebody’s office and cry, there’s always a door you can go into. There’s always a door.”