Cook County Funds Expansion of Road Home Program to Support Services and Career Opportunities for Returning Residents in Suburban Cook County
Second Chance Month and Road Home Shine Light on Importance of Career and Support Services for Reentry Community
(COOK COUNTY, IL)— Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today officially announced the expansion of its Reentry Navigation Initiative: The Road Home program serving residents returning from incarceration. The expansion was announced in partnership with the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development (BED), the Cook County Justice Advisory Council (JAC), and The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) as part of April’s Second Chance Month observance.
“I am proud that the County’s additional investment of federal ARPA funds into the Road Home program expands these services to those already home, and expands the program’s service area to include Chicago Heights, Calumet City, Harvey, Markham, Dixmoor, Robbins, Dolton and other underserved villages in Thornton Township and south suburban Cook County,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “It is for that reason we seek to designate April as Second Chance Month in Cook County, aligning with our celebration on the national level.”
In collaboration with BED and the JAC, The Partnership created the Cook County Coordinated Reentry Council and held seven months of convenings resulting in recommendations for systemic changes to the region’s reentry system. This effort included The Reentry Navigation Initiative: The Road Home Program, a 22-month demonstration project that launched in early 2022. It addresses people’s holistic needs upon returning to Cook County before they are released from incarceration in Illinois’ penal institutions. The Road Home Program is supported with funds provided by Cook County and the Department of Justice and has thus far served more than 100 returning residents.
Today’s announcement highlighted the County’s investment of an additional $450,000 in federal ARPA funds to expand the Road Home program, allowing The Partnership serve those already ‘home,’ post-release, in suburban Cook County. The Road Home expansion provides navigation, career coaching, training, support services and paid work experience to participants. This initiative includes an emphasis on workforce development, occupational training and permanent unsubsidized job placement.
Each April, the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs celebrates Second Chance Month, recognizing the importance of helping individuals, communities, and agencies across the country appreciate their role in supporting the safe and successful reentry of millions of people returning from incarceration each year. Second Chance Month aims to inform and highlight the many opportunities for state, local and tribal governments and community-based service providers to build meaningful second chances for returning community members. A resolution proposed by Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer designating April as Second Chance Month in Cook County will be introduced to the Cook County Board of Commissioners at the upcoming Board Meeting on April 27.
Data shows there are nearly two million people in prison and jails nationwide and approximately 76,000 in Illinois alone. About a third of this number, 26,000 men and women, are released from Illinois prisons each year. The Second Chance Month proclamation issued by President Biden on March 31 states that more that 70 percent of formally incarcerated people are unemployed a year after their release.
“Roughly 10% of the people The Partnership serves through federally funded jobs programs self-identify as ex-offenders,“ said Partnership Interim CEO Patrick Combs. “Access to resources and support is crucial for individuals re-entering their communities after incarceration. The Road Home Program targets the 15 most underserved communities throughout Chicago and suburban Cook County offering a wealth of resources where they are most needed making it ideal for individuals seeking to rebuild their lives and achieve a successful reintegration back into society.”
The Partnership’s collaboration with Phalanx Family Services and the Safer Foundation has been instrumental in the program’s success, bringing together experts in criminal justice and workforce development to provide comprehensive support to participants.
“I am a second chance employer,” says small business owner Gia Davis, who lives in Cook County’s south suburbs. “I was raised by a person who defeated the odds stacked against him by his upbringing and taught me that everyone deserves a second chance. I am a strong proponent of hiring returning residents and have benefited from their work ethic and determination firsthand through hiring them to work in a variety of the businesses I own.”
Nick Crayton is a returning resident. He was incarcerated for decades and speaks honestly about how he used that time to focus and set his goals for his eventual release.
“During my incarceration, I worked for a cemetery and once I was back home, I applied for a similar job, but was turned away. I applied for jobs in a multitude of sectors and was consistently turned away due to my criminal record,” says Crayton. “The Road Home saved my life. I was spinning and not sure what to do. I didn’t know how to get or manage a credit card or use google! I had to start over and the Road Home helped me do that. Today, I work for a non-profit that focuses on working with returning residents. I am pouring my own experience and passion into my work every day.”
The Road Home program participants are able to access a range of services, including job search assistance, job placement, mental health, substance abuse, legal and housing services and more. For information about Partnership services for returning residents, please email RoadHome@chicookworks.org or visit the webpage at: www.chicookworks.org/roadhome