Kelly was incarcerated in April of 2020 and served about two years before being released. Once out of prison, life held many obstacles and challenges for her. Kelly had experienced substance abuse, living in a tent city, and the loss of her family relationships and career. She had been a professional chef for many years, but because of her charges, that door seemed closed.
Having served her time, she wanted to get her life back on track, but the future looked daunting.
“I was living in transitional housing…I didn’t know how I was going to get back on top,” Kelly shared.
The hopelessness and desperation Kelly felt is an all-too-common story for formerly incarcerated individuals. They often struggle to find safe, reliable housing, and the potential for homelessness is ten times higher for formerly incarcerated individuals (especially women).
Luckily for Kelly, she was introduced to The Way Back. “Everything went uphill from there,” Kelly stated.
Starting a new path
The Way Back gave Kelly many referrals to find proper housing, and she was eventually able to find a home. Kelly was also given assistance in obtaining her identification, which led to her getting a driver’s license, something she hadn’t had since 2003.
Post-release, many people struggle with obtaining their identification documents, which can make getting jobs, going back to school, and finding proper housing difficult. Navigating the legal and logistical maze is a challenge, and can be made so much easier with the help of a knowledgeable program like The Way Back—our goal is to empower individuals to make the most of their second chance, and Kelly is doing just that.
“The Way Back program fed affirmations and positive words into my spirit,” Kelly said. The encouragement and practical support Kelly received helped her get back on her feet, and she went from living in a sober living house to managing one. She’s even gone back to school, something that many formerly incarcerated individuals never get a chance to do.
Because The Way Back supported her in collecting and preparing her files and paperwork, Kelly is now a student at Dallas Baptist University. She said, “The promises I made to myself in prison are being honored by my Higher Power, in every form and fashion. As I do the next right thing, another positive door opens up for me.”
Kelly was also encouraged by The Way Back to not just look for a job but also to pursue a career-track job, something that many formerly incarcerated people face challenges with. Jobs are scarcer for those with prison records, and finding a good job and getting established in a career with potential for growth is even rarer. Because of the support she has received, Kelly is using her second chance in life to pursue her dreams.
Many formerly incarcerated individuals may have broken or dysfunctional relationships with their families. They may also lack a support system. At The Way Back, we help restore families through practical support as well as counseling and guidance.
During her period of incarceration, Kelly’s four children wanted nothing to do with her. But now that she’s moving forward in a positive direction and making good choices daily, her family has welcomed her back into their lives.
“I have three grandbabies on the way. I’m getting to be a part of the pregnancies, and my family has welcomed me back into the fold,” Kelly shared.
Hope for the future
Kelly hopes her story can become a bridge of hope for others who have walked her same path. She wants other individuals who have been incarcerated or struggled with substance addiction to know their future can be bright.
“The things that once held me in bondage have become the very stepping stones that are bringing me to my next level in life,” Kelly said. “If you are wondering what recovery looks like, just know that there is hope after the storm. I am recovery, and you can be also.”
Kelly is living proof of our core belief at The Way Back—incarceration does not define a life, but a second chance can. Kelly’s second chance is bringing restoration to her past and present, and building a brighter future for herself, her family, and her community.
“I once had nothing, I was as low as I could go. Today, The Way Back program have paved the way for me to gain my life back, not to where I used to be, but to where I should be.”
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For 50 years, The Way Back has guided individuals newly released from incarceration to success in a new life with transformational support, services, and accountability. Through our work, we are empowering individuals, restoring families, and creating safer communities.
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