You will get many ‘no’s’, but you have to keep your head up and trust that someone will say ‘Yes’. There are a lot of good people in the world who will give you a chance. They understand that just because you did bad things, it doesn’t mean you can’t change and be a good person.
Kelvin is an Army veteran, who served on active duty from 1979 through 1982, then served two years in the Reserves. He speaks openly and honestly about his past destructive behavior and choices, acknowledging that his 27 years of drug addiction led to multiple incarcerations and prevented him from achieving his life goals. He is proud of the fact, however, that he has now been clean for 20 years and still has hope for a better future.
Kelvin’s story is lengthy and complex, but also reflects his strong spirit and belief in himself and his abilities. This chapter begins in Atlanta and explains how he came to North Carolina. While living in Atlanta, he was arrested on drug charges and served a three-month sentence, during which time his wife divorced him. Once he was released, he transitioned into a halfway house, where he lived for a year and worked full-time at a restaurant. When he was given the two-month notice that his term at the halfway house was ending, he was able to rent a room at a boarding house. Soon afterward, he left his restaurant job to work for the H&F Bread Company, where he was able to work more hours and increase his income. He speaks proudly of the fact that was able to buy a car, a Mazda6, which he loved. Life was good during this period, except for his inability to rent an apartment, due to his recent imprisonment and his probationary status.
Kelvin was discouraged and felt he needed a new start, but did not relapse into drug use. It was at this point that he reached out to his family in North Carolina, reconnecting with his cousin, who owns a trucking company in Winston-Salem. His cousin offered to help him by driving to Atlanta to transport him to North Carolina, where Kelvin could live with him until he found employment. Kelvin gratefully accepted and once in Winston-Salem was soon hired by P.F. Chang’s. He was happy with his job. When his cousin announced he was relocating, Kelvin was able to move in with a friend and stay with his job in Winston-Salem.
It was during this time that he reached out to Goodwill’s Veterans Service program and began receiving support from a case manager. She assisted Kelvin in creating an impactful resume and began advising him on clearing his record, so he could take advantage of expanded employment opportunities, as there was still an active bench warrant against him in Florida.
Kelvin traveled to Florida to clear his pending bench warrant. He was required to appear before the same judge who issued the warrant, but learned the judge was on vacation, so he returned to North Carolina without a court date. His Veterans Services case manager was able to intervene and confirm a court date for him. When he returned to Florida for his court appearance, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail. When his case was finally championed by his public defender, the judge agreed to clear the bench warrant against him, with his agreement to return to North Carolina.
The bus ticket he was given when he was released following his jail term in Atlanta had expired, so Kelvin contacted his Veterans Services case manager who was able to obtain a bus pass for his return to Winston-Salem
He returned to work with P.F. Chang’s but eventually left, because he was offered a job with a new chain restaurant that was launching in Winston-Salem. During his eight months there, he assumed a great deal of responsibility and began serving as a team leader. However, his pay did not increase, so Kelvin’s roommate suggested he apply for a production job at Ashley Furniture. He was hired immediately and worked for six weeks, earning an excellent wage and loving his job. Then his background check results were received and he was released due to his background. This experience devastated him, as this meant all “wreckage of his past” had caught up with him, though he was only a little over a year away from completing his probation period.
Soon after this crushing disappointment, Kelvin reached out to the Bethesda Center, where he could live and have access to employment opportunities. It was there that he met a second case manager, who, in coordination with his Veterans Services case manager, enabled Kelvin to finally find a place where he could achieve many of his goals, with support from a program for veterans. He was accepted into the VHVS Program (Veterans Helping Veterans Heal), thanks to the sponsorship of his Bethesda Center case manager, for which he was very grateful. He has since been able to pay off his outstanding speeding tickets as well as buy a used car.
Kelvin is currently performing what he calls “side jobs”, while he continues to search for full-time employment. His Veterans Services case manager connected him with a professional recruiter, with whom he meets each Wednesday at Goodwill on University Parkway. He feels confident that she will be able to locate a job for him, via the Second Chance program, which many employers now offer.
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