Our Stories

A Pathway to a New Jobs, and New Lives, in Providence, RI

An article in the Providence Journal shines light on a remarkable skills training program that LISC and our partner Amos House offer to formerly incarcerated Rhode Islanders and people who’ve struggled with substance abuse. LISC’s Financial Opportunity Center and a Bridges to Opportunity program at Amos House help clients hone life skills as part of job readiness. “When folks come out of prison,” said LISC Rhode Island director Jeanne Cola, who is quoted in the story, “they need help to stay out.”

The excerpt below is from:
Providence’s Amos House a lifeline for former convicts and addicts
by Katie Mulvaney, Providence Journal

For more than a decade, Lavina Qualls had a pattern going on in life. She’d do drugs, shoplift to support her habit, get arrested, sober up in prison, get released, repeat.

Today, Qualls, 33, is determined to leave that cycle behind. And with a hand up from Amos House and LISC Rhode Island, it’s more likely than ever that might just happen.

“This is about fixing your life completely, not just getting clean,” Qualls said recently, during an interview at Amos House.

Qualls is one of seven participants in a new 16-week reentry program aimed at helping people recently released from prison develop job, financial literacy and life skills that will help them leave that pattern in the past. The program is funded by a $4.5-million U.S. Department of Labor grant to Local Initiatives Support Corporation Rhode Island, and has two main components: job training and education focusing on cultivating financial independence and math and literacy skills.

In the process, they will earn industry-recognized certificates that could lead to higher wages and career advancement opportunities, with the goal of achieving long-term financial stability.

“Now, I’m ready for this. I don’t want to use anymore. I want to fix my life,” said Qualls, a big personality whose green lipstick, nose ring and generous smile brighten the room. Qualls is learning culinary skills with a dream of one day opening a combination snack-barber shop with her boyfriend. Bacon cheeseburger mac and cheese is a specialty.

“This is really big for me because I never complete everything. I knew I had to go back to the beginning and restart,” Qualls said. Under the guidance of workforce education director Michelle Pugh she is learning knife, food safety and math skills; patience, teamwork and employer expectations. She knows she needs to take orders and work well with others, which is sometimes a challenge.

“I had to get rid of a lot of stuff because I had a lot of anger,” Qualls says. She sets goals daily, telling herself: “Just for today, I’m not going to be rude. Just for today, I’ll do my best.”

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