Raymond’s Story: Finding Care and Community During COVID-19

Raymond’s Story: Finding Care and Community During COVID-19

12/10/2020

When Raymond was released from Rikers Island in May 2020 and came to The Fortune Society, he felt immense relief. Rikers is an inhumane, unsanitary place where social distancing is impossible. At the height of the pandemic, it became an epicenter of COVID-19. Rikers was an especially dangerous place for Raymond, who lives with asthma, diabetes, and other health challenges.

 Thankfully, due to his medical issues, he was released early. 

“It [was] very scary. You have your life in the hands of nurses and doctors [who] don't really care about you,” said Raymond. “They just look at you as being a criminal."

But when he came to The Fortune Society, he found the community he needed to change his life.

After release, Raymond came straight to Freedom House, Fortune’s new housing unit in East Harlem. Freedom House opened in the midst of the pandemic in April, providing 38 beds for men who are currently or likely to be detained and have behavioral health needs. Residents receive Fortune’s array of services, including case management and mental health and substance use treatment.

“The people in Fortune, they made me feel comfortable...They showed me a lot of support. They show you a lot of love,” recalled Raymond.

Raymond also received an emergency cell phone to access services virtually, and participates in daily Zoom wellness checks with Fortune’s Prepare for Release (I-CAN) team. Most importantly, Raymond enrolled in Fortune’s Care Management Unit, who immediately connected him with a primary care doctor and other medical professionals to meet his needs.

"I don't have to worry about my health anymore,” said Raymond. “I don't have to worry about anything.”

Through Fortune’s Returning Citizen Stimulus initiative, which aims to support formerly incarcerated individuals who did not receive federal stimulus money, Raymond received a $2,750 check to support his reentry. He has used this check to buy blankets, winter clothes, metrocards, and other essential items.

"The Fortune Society made me realize a lot of good things about myself,” he said. “I can love myself, I can care about myself. And it gave me the opportunity to live my life a little differently than [when] I was on Rikers Island."

Recently, Raymond moved to The Castle, our supportive housing unit in West Harlem. With a safe home and unwavering support system, he is turning his life around. He has formed close bonds with staff and fellow residents. In the future, he hopes to finish school and help others.

"I want to continue staying out of trouble,” he said. “I want to continue doing everything positive that I'm doing—helping people and doing the right thing. I like to help people. If I can help somebody that makes me feel good."

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