Goodwill’s Adult Re-entry Program first met Fidelis at an informational session in May of 2019. Fidelis was staying at a federal halfway house and had only been out of prison for about a month. As he describes it, in his lifetime, at the age of 52, he has been behind bars much longer than he’s lived outside of incarceration. Fidelis had his sights set high and wanted to attend Gap Kitchen, a local culinary program that is an intense, 10-week, 40 hours per week certification class; the course includes life skills and financial literacy training, in addition to top-level culinary training by a highly acclaimed former Tucson Iron Chef champion John Hohn. There is no cost to the program but the intensity of the training does not permit much opportunity for someone to work while attending. Fidelis rode three buses each way, for two and a half months.
Our Adult Re-Entry team was able to provide Fidelis with bus passes, a stipend throughout the course of the training and emotional support when there were struggles. Staff works to support individuals by building self-reliance skills and by connecting them to additional resources in the community. For example, our Adult Re-Entry team worked to ensure Fidelis had transportation and the ability to obtain bus passes once the program’s support ended. Fidelis was initially unable to acquire a low-income bus pass (which reduces the cost of a trip by half) as he did not receive state benefits and did not have documentation proving he was of low- income. Goodwill was able to connect with a local partner agency who helped obtain his approval for a low-income bus pass.
Fidelis saved up enough of his stipend funds and was able to find stable housing for himself. It is an incredible accomplishment, he is now living in his own home for the first time in many, many years. To further support and celebrate, Goodwill obtained a “Starting Over Kit”, a basket of items provided through the Tucson Assistance League, which includes basic household items like a shower curtain, plates, cups, and utensils to help get his home started. He has now graduated from Gap Kitchen with his ServeSafe Manager’s Certification, a nationally recognized certification that is required for at least one employee to hold in every food establishment in Pima County. Fidelis currently works at a local Thai restaurant where he enjoys learning new dishes and keeping busy.
Fidelis’ integrity shines through in his performance. He wants to work and he wants to work hard. Since enrolling in Goodwill Adult Re-Entry we have also known him to volunteer his time with another non-profit. Fidelis also makes it a point to distribute food to people who are experiencing homelessness that he sees on his way home from work
We have learned from our participants that for many, re-entering society after incarceration is not an easy path. Fidelis’ journey definitely reflects those struggles. He has shared that he even considered that incarceration is easier, perhaps even an appealing choice as he faced a mountain of barriers. Navigating every-day tasks like basic choices (since there are such few opportunities to make choices once within incarceration), understanding the bus routes, as well as other more difficult situations can often be an emotional struggle that can defeat an individual. Fidelis was even frustrated and overwhelmed with the Re-Entry enrollment process but he pushed through and was able to benefit from the program. In his application to Goodwill, Fidelis wrote that he would like to be accepted into the program because he wanted “people who believe in [him] and that are willing to help [him] along the way”. We hold the belief that everyone can be successful and that each individual’s value is defined by more than their mistakes. At Goodwill, we’re here to help if someone stumbles or gets stuck and that can be essential to their long term success.
We are thrilled Fidelis has met his goals and accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. We look forward to celebrating all of Fidelis’ future success.