By: Emma Drongowski, Program Associate, GreenLight Cincinnati
Across GreenLight Fund’s seven sites, there are issue areas that regularly surface as needs in our cities. While each geography is unique and has its own challenges, dynamics and opportunities, we see a lot of consistency in the symptoms and consequences of systems of inequity in our communities. The clearest example of this is our broken criminal justice system and persistent barriers that formerly incarcerated people face when they return home.
While many organizations work with people with criminal convictions, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) shines among them as a model for how to help people to navigate the barriers of re-entry and support them on a path to employment and self-sufficiency. CEO’s evidence-based model is designed to enable men and women recently released from incarceration to quickly and successfully rejoin the workforce and become positive, contributing members of their families and their communities. The comprehensive program provides transitional work experience, coupled with job coaching, job development, and post-placement retention supports. GreenLight has been so impressed with CEO’s success that we have brought it to Cincinnati, Detroit, and Philadelphia.
In Cincinnati, CEO operates out of CityLink Center, a cutting-edge and forward-thinking service center for our region. CityLink’s approach is based on the idea that support services are much more effective when they work together. Their model was built upon the realization that programs to help people climb out of poverty were often under-utilized for a number of reasons: scheduling conflicts, transportation barriers, the embarrassment of asking for help, and even lack of awareness that these programs existed.
As a partner organization at CityLink, when someone becomes a participant of CEO, they have immediate access to over 15 other best-in-class services, all offered under the same roof. What does this actually look like in practice? Pretty great – just ask Rebecca, a recent CEO graduate.
Rebecca was released from the Dayton Correctional Institution in November of 2017. She came to CityLink Center in January of 2018 and began working with CEO in one of their transitional job crews. She took advantage of a few of the other excellent programs at CityLink, including SmartMoney, a financial education and economic counseling program, and ChangingGears, a program that puts people on a pathway to car ownership. With a helping hand from these programs, Rebecca started working at Promax Auto Packing, a full-time job that she loves. And a few weeks ago, Rebecca was able to buy her car outright from ChangingGears, opening the door to many more opportunities for her and her future.
These kinds of collaborative partnerships and investments are true game-changers. From CEO’s innovative model to CityLink’s commitment to making programs accessible to all, we know that there are solutions to the most pressing challenges our cities face—and we are committed to finding them and bringing them to the people who need them the most.