BOISE, Idaho — Finding a job, looking for a new place to live, or just keeping food on the table can be a struggle, but factor in that you were just released from prison, and it's even harder.
A Treasure Valley program from the PEER Wellness Center aims to set up returning citizens for success immediately upon release, by picking them up from the prison gates and taking them around town to tackle their long back-to-reality to-do list.
“They are our returning citizens who are coming back into the community, and I think it’s really important to welcome them back, show them that love and support, and then give them the very basic human needs; it’s the basic resources," PEER Wellness board member Mark Person said.
Person knows first hand what it's like to adjust back to normal life after serving time behind bars. He was the driving force behind getting the "Day One" program started.
From his experience, Person says returning citizens need to find employment within a week of release in order to financially support themselves after their 30 days of transitional funding runs out.
"If I can give them one day of my time and drive them around to all of the resources and get the food box, the clothing, the Probation and Parole check-in out of the way, all of those things in one day, then they can focus the rest of the week solely on getting a job so they can keep the roof over their head in 30 days," Person said.
Person now coordinates a team of individuals doing several pickups every week.
'Day One' errands could include a trip to the DMV to get a state-issued ID and a visit to Health and Welfare to apply for food stamps and Medicaid. Individuals will also be connected with a bus pass, and if needed, support groups and resources for mental illness or substance abuse.
“I see it once or twice a week on a minimum the difference that some of those small things can make in someone’s success out here," Recovery United, Inc. CEO Monica Forbes said.
And as it turns out, something as simple as a pair of socks can make all the difference in the world.
Person vividly remembers helping a man who was able to secure a job working construction, but only had one pair of socks and no on-site laundry. He would wash his socks every night in the sink after work and hang them up to dry. Whether they were dry or not, he'd put them on in the morning and head to work.
When Person learned of the situation, he immediately brought the man a package of new socks.
“Here’s a 250-pound man covered in tattoos, a real tough-looking guy, and he broke down and started crying," Person recalled. "And that was all he needed, the one thing he needed to get him through to the first paycheck so he could start his life. He just needed socks," Person said. "Sometimes it’s that simple."
Although the connection is made quickly, the relationship lasts far beyond day one.
"If that person starts struggling out here, the first person they’re going to call is Marc or one of the team members doing the Day One pickups, because they have an established relationship,” Forbes said. "it’s kind of a misnomer to say that Day One is just day one because it really is a long-term relationship."