Hunger and self-respect: Both are core parts of the human experience. Regardless of one’s past, neither should have to be sacrificed for the sake of the other. For many individuals with justice involvement, however, dehumanization is far too often a part of the process of reentry, including when it comes to simply getting a meal to eat.
Before coming to The Fortune Society, Stefon Luckey faced his share of rudeness and discourtesy when asking for help. He recalls applying for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits on his own at a local center: “…the people there was like real snobbish and discouraging. When I did apply, I got a letter back stating that I was ineligible.” Though he did need the help, the negative treatment made him want to resort to other methods of securing food: “I rather just go out there and ask for food or go to the…food pantry.”
Luckily, a friend told him about The Fortune Society. After six months in prison and a rocky start on the journey to community reentry, Stefon finally found a community that genuinely cared about his wellbeing. Within the Benefits Application Assistance (Single Stop) program, Stefon met Benefits Coordinator Nicholas Posada, who carefully walked him through each part of the SNAP benefits application process and outlined what he was entitled to. Within two days, Stefon received confirmation of his SNAP eligibility.
Food security is a key part of one’s ability to thrive. With less worry, Stefon is able to pursue his passion for mentorship with more intention, using his life story to help others not repeat similar mistakes. He has also distanced himself from negative people, instead choosing to be surrounded by positive influences who empower and help him lead by both insight and example.
Every Monday, he puts this new path to practice as a mentor on Rikers Island:
Each day, Stefon is learning new ways to inspire—and ways to invite success into all aspects of his life. Fortune’s holistic services aid him every step of the way.
In addition to the Benefits Application Assistance (Single Stop) program, Stefon learned invaluable career skills from Fortune’s Employment Services program. In mock interviewing sessions, for instance, he discovered the importance of a good handshake:
Equipped with new job market techniques, Fortune’s Family Services program strengthened connections between Stefon, his child, and the child’s mother, too. Family Services Specialist Elvin Garcia led him to parenting and conflict resolution classes, which helped him see both his child and co-parent with new perspectives.
With greater sensitivity to others, today, Stefon is a better listener to those closest to him.
From food to family—even financial credit counseling—The Fortune Society has solutions for every part of Stefon’s life after incarceration. For over 50 years, it has worked to transform criminal justice from the inside out, inspiring those most impacted to be principal catalysts for change. Already, Stefon is thinking of more ways to make a difference:
*Written by Root Stitches LLC