Image of male with a hat smiling

Against All Odds – A Story of Re-Entry

by Manny, previous consumer and staff.

Two decades of incarceration was all I knew and understood of the world on my release in 2018. I was able to regain a portion of my humanity, through receiving two college degrees. Yet, I was not prepared to face a world that has changed through time and technology.

Upon my reentry to society, I moved to the Hudson Valley. For a boy who was born and raised on the streets of New York City, it was another culture shock. My only direction was the guidance o fa parole officer who only knew me through the same numbers and paperwork that was the definition of my life for 20 years.

I had a plan on what I needed to do and go. Society had another plan. Every service provider and social service was a maze with no end. I did not know where to turn; I was giving up on myself. Doors were slammed in my face. The pile of applications was overwhelming. I had no idea how to use a cell phone, let alone how to fill out an application for SNAP and housing.

Life seemed to set its own course for me. I came across some amazing people who shared the term “Peer”. All I knew was “a peer can meet you where you are at”. I was like great, “I can’t keep walking 5 miles each day to get to my programs.”

That was not what they meant. When they said a peer could meet me where I was at, it was about my mental state, my soul’s desires, the steps I would take to live a better life. They would meet me without judgment. They would come to me with understanding because they too lived and experienced their own traumas.

My Peer helped me battle my doubts of my falls and successes. He helped me take my life experiences, what so many have viewed as my detriments, and turn them into my unique strengths. I began taking control of my life and became a volunteer, helping others regain their place in their lives. I did it with so much passion. My new passion became my career when I was offered a position as a Peer. It has become my life’s journey.

After two decades of incarceration, coming out and trying to assimilate into a world I no longer knew or understood, I connected with Independent Living as a consumer, then became a volunteer, was hired as a staff member, and now here I am, five years later; I am a Program Director for Recovery Coaches.