The 2010 spending bill signed by President Obama on December 16, 2009 includes half a million dollars for Chrysalis, a Los Angeles based nonprofit dedicated to helping those suffering from poverty and homelessness become self-sufficient through employment opportunities. The funding will be used for a program that helps ex-offenders re-enter the work force.
Chrysalis has experienced a 40% increase in the number of clients seeking its services over the past year due to the economic downturn. Of the over 3,000 men and women the nonprofit will assist this year, 70% have been incarcerated and 46% have been convicted of felonies.
Chrysalis is expecting this increase in demand to continue for at least the next two years. “With California prisons releasing significant numbers of non-violent offenders early in order to address State budget shortfalls, we expect to see significant numbers of new clients that have major barriers to employment,” says Mark Loranger, President and CEO of Chrysalis.
“This population is very vulnerable, often having no place to live or family to turn to when released from prison. They have little hope that they will get a job.” Loranger adds. “However, it is possible for ex-offenders to gain employment, earn a paycheck and get their lives back on track. We see it all the time at Chrysalis.”
Chrysalis offers services ranging from job-preparation classes and one-on-one mentoring to material assistance such as interview clothing, bus tokens, and access to phones, computers, and fax machines. For ex-offenders, there are specialized courses on dealing with a prison record on job applications and interviews, relapse prevention, and creating a resume that highlights skills rather than gaps in employment.
“Before Chrysalis, I was in prison for 5 and a half years. My self-esteem was very low and I didn’t think that I would be able to get a job,,” says Johnny Gutierrez, who came to Chrysalis in 2004. “I learned how to put together a resume, learned communications skills and gained self-confidence.” Gutierrez has been working as a Substance Abuse Counselor for the past 5 years, is attending college and has been reunited with his family.
For those with the most barriers to employment, Chrysalis provides over 600 transitional jobs through its Chrysalis Enterprises division. This program helps individuals develop their skills and gain work experience that will eventually help them secure a job in the private sector.
This funding was at the request of Congresswoman Roybal-Allard (CA-34), a member of the Appropriations Committee, in the House and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the Senate, and is part of the Omnibus Appropriations for FY 2010 spending measure that includes millions of dollars in federal funds for major programs and projects. “The legislation funds critical workforce training programs that provide job seekers with the skills needed to secure employment in today’s tough job market.” Congresswoman Roybal-Allard said.
Prison and Homelessness Facts:
* The total Incarcerated, Prison and Jail population in California for 2008 was 254,994 individuals – the largest corrections population in the nation. (www.sentencingproject.org)
* 15% of the 13,000 people released from jail in LA County each month become homeless the first night after release. (United Way Homelessness in LA County, Research Brief, 11/07)
* It costs an average of about $47,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate in prison in California. (The Legislative Analyst’s Office)
* Rehabilitation programs (vocational and substance abuse) in prison are extremely limited and therefore play a very small part of the overall incarceration cost ($1,612 per inmate). (The Legislative Analyst’s Office)
Since 1984, Chrysalis has provided critical employment services to over 30,000 homeless and economically disadvantaged individuals through its service centers in downtown Los Angeles (Skid Row), Santa Monica, and in the San Fernando Valley (Pacoima).