I am Kevin Eason, and I am proud to be the first graduate of REAP (Re-Entry Alliance Pensacola). REAP’s mission is “to improve the safety and quality of life in Northwest Florida by enabling individuals returning from incarceration to be self-sufficient, crime-free, productive citizens and neighbors.” A lot of good things have happened for REAP, but clearly the 2015 Impact 100 grant was the biggest blessing and several good things have followed because of it.
Before the grant we were extremely limited in what we could do to help individuals coming out of our jails and prisons. The grant was to help us reach out to those who were coming out of the state prisons, and about a thousand come out to Escambia and Santa Rosa every year. Most of the folks we serve come out with a $50 debit card, the clothes on their back and transportation to the bus station or our office. That’s it, and they already owe more than that to get their ID’s and pay their probation officer.
With the Impact grant, we now have some funds to supply initial hygiene and food needs and some transportation for the clients.
With the grant in place, the owners of 10 different houses saw REAP was functioning and rented us houses for our clients. They are tough houses, but being able to put a guy leaving prison under a roof for more than a few nights means we can get him all the immediate requirements and registrations. We can give him the food, clothing and hygiene supplies to get started. He can be clean and dressed and timely to part-time of full-time jobs, earning money and an ability to pay his bills. Without a roof, shower and a job, he really can’t get beyond the daily world of just finding a meal to survive till the next day.
Again, with the help from Impact 100, we succeeded in becoming a re-entry port with the Florida Department of Corrections. There are about a dozen agencies in Florida helping state prisoners as they come out, and we finally got an appropriation last year that is helping us meet more with their needs.
Well, since starting almost two years ago when we applied for the Impact 100 grant we have served 175 people, have over 50 graduates, with only 10 having gone back to prison and only 2 went back for new offenses. Today we have about 50 in the program with 40 of them in our houses. Almost none of this would have happened if Impact 100 did not take a chance on REAP and give us a true start.
Today I have a couple jobs, a good truck, my own home and am doing well. One of those jobs is serving as the director of housing and employer relations for REAP. Thank you Impact 100.
This story was originally published in the Pensacola News Journal on May 8, 2017.