ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Reentering society can be difficult for many. Former inmates tend to face challenges with housing, education, and employment. As a way to help with that issue, the Big Country Reentry Coalition celebrated its third annual reentry coalition expo.
Mandy Schuman, Vice Chair of the Big Country Reentry Coalition, said one in 48 individuals are formerly incarcerated. The event helps provide resources designed to help get them a fresh start free of charge, but Schuman said there are obstacles to overcome.
“The way things are worded on applications keep people down as far as not wanting to fill out applications,” said Schuman.
She added that it takes a team to help break that stigma.
“The more people that we break the stigma, the more of having to reenter society the better we are as a community,” shared Schuman.
Andre Gwinn, Sr, Employment and resource specialist, said more than ten years ago, he was going through the reentry process. Now he is able to help others in similar situations.
“There are many times when I thought I would absolutely fail but I just refused to give up and so through not giving up. I was able to find these resources and benefits and things that I needed, so now I’m in an opportunity to assist people who are going through the process themselves to get connected with that information,” shared Gwinn.
Eric Baer attended the event and said many either have no family members or any help upon release, so events like this one make a difference.
“I mean, I wish more people knew about this experience that way they don’t fall back on hard times. They have an easy transition back into the world and into jobs,” expressed Baer.
Another attendee Gary Mathews said his best advice for anyone going through something similar is to focus on the future.
“Just put one foot in front of the other and just look forward don’t never look back. When you look back, it reminds you of what used to be, which you can’t have anymore,” said Mathews.
With the help of some resources at the event, Mathews was able to get a phone free of charge to help get him back on his feet.
“I had a landline in the house I used to live in, but I never had a cellphone before. It’s my first one,” added Mathews.
The event took place at the Abilene Convention Center. Schuman said it grows larger every year and she is looking forward to seeing its impact.