Think you have what it takes to navigate life as a returning citizen? - Generocity Philly

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Sep. 29, 2017 10:49 am

Think you have what it takes to navigate life as a returning citizen?

Then go ahead and register for Redemption Housing's Day One Challenge, happening tomorrow, which will have you living the experience of someone who's just been released from prison.

Turns out there'll be a lot of walking involved.

(Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker, used via a Creative Commons license)

The next couple of months are filling up with events that will shed light on some local solutions for the issue of reentry, including a hackathon bringing together different communities and a TED Talk-style event where you’ll get to hear directly from those formerly incarcerated.

But an event hosted by Redemption Housing, a small nonprofit that offers transitional housing and services to returning citizens in Philadelphia, is taking an empathetic approach to the situation by trying to help people understand what the reentry experience is like from the shoes of those going through them today.

Redemption Housing’s Day One Challenge, taking place tomorrow, is a three-hour immersion event where participants will have to go through what someone coming out of prison has to endure, which could include finding a place to stay, trying to find employment and the list goes on.

Redemption Housing board president Nick Lordi explained in an email how the day will go: Participants will first be given a profile that explains who they are — crimes, length of incarceration, employment history, family location, etc. — and will be matched up with others with similar profiles.

As a group, the participants will then go walking to different locations throughout the city in their mission to get back to their imagined pre-prison lives.

The locations where the participants will be stopping include some of the partners Redemption Housing is working with from the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition on this challenge, and while Lordi said they’ve tried their best to not make the walking distances too long, “the reality is that endless walking is one of the greatest challenges that people face in their first few days after release.”

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Lordi said the idea for the inaugural event stemmed from the open houses Redemption Housing has been hosting for the past year at volunteers’ living rooms, where they would explore the issues returning citizens face by having a moderator start off the night by giving a certain scenario — “Congratulations! After 15 years behind bars, you are almost up for parole. You have been counting down the weeks to your release, and with only 6 months left until your parole hearing, it is time to start planning for life on the outside” — and then having the volunteers make a list of what they would need in order to survive and succeed.

He added that the challenge is also a good chance for introducing Redemption Housing’s network to other organizations in the Reentry Coalition, to remind each other of the “idea that we’re all working at this together.”

“Unless someone has been through the experience of incarceration and reentry, there’s no way to completely understand how challenging it can be, and I put myself in that category,” Lordi said. “An event like this can at least give a glimpse of reentry systems, and it will hopefully open a participant’s eyes to the sometimes-impossible task of reentering successfully.”

Check out the full schedule here, and if you feel ready to take on the challenge, you can pay the $40 registration fee (all of which will go directly toward Redemption Housing’s programming) here.

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