Get the basics on starting a life after release in L.A. County.
I just got released after five years and I can’t stay with my parents and I don’t have a job lined up. Can IOW help me?
IOW has case managers to help you find housing, get enrolled in school and look for a job. My case manager asked me what I needed and then helped me figure out how to get where I wanted to be. He did everything from help me plan my train route to school to sitting in on an orientation and making sure I understood what was going on. When I was first released I didn’t know how to do any of that stuff. He even picked me up from home and walked me through every step of the college registration process. He didn’t just tell me what to do, he did it with me.
The program helped me develop social, personal and professional abilities that make life on the outs more bearable. Besides the life skills and writing classes, the program offers encouragement and support that help keep me focused on my goals. I was able to get an internship and a mentor that has exposed me to a lot of experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
What is the environment at IOW like? How are the staff and the alumni?
The environment is chill and comfortable, lively and focused. In class, everybody’s mind is going and they make you feel energized and accepted. As far as the staff, I only knew a few of them at first, because I was just going into the office once a week for writing classes. Now that I am an intern, I see how hard the staff works to get your needs met.
The staff encourages you to chase your dreams and works with you to really reach them. They don’t look down on you for the decisions you’ve made. They let you be who you are and encourage you to pursue more. And my peers are great because it’s nice to be around people doing positive things and hustling the right way to reach their dreams.
Do I have to come to the writing and life skills classes to get case management support?
No. Although you’re encouraged to attend the writing and life skills classes, it is not a requirement. The writing circles give you a chance to continue giving voice to your circumstances and the life skills classes help prepare you for life by teaching you how to budget, prepare for a job interview, find an apartment and many other skills. Outside of those things many of the alumni find support from being around youth that share a similar experience and want to move in a more positive direction.