September 28, 2012 ~ Since Brandon and I are helping Mike get back on his feet I had planned to take him to town and get some clothes and necessity items. Our day started with a meeting at 8:00 am at Phoenix House here in Columbia for an assessment. This would be some basic information as well as a series of questions that Mike would have to answer so that they could determine where he fit into the classes he would need to take. This took 1 1/2 hours and they assessed him at a 2. (Most people that come out of prison typically rank at a 1 so he's off to a great start!) He will begin taking classes at Phoenix House weekly and one of them will count towards his SATOP class which is great.
At first impression of the people we were talking to I was a little nervous. Not sure what I expected but it seemed a little disorganized at first. As we sat and talked to one of the counselors prior to the assessment I felt better. As he began to ask Mike general questions we found out that this counselor had also been to prison and had an addiction to crack but because he wanted to change his life and through the different programs he was sober for 8 years and serving as a counselor. He was very open and honest which to some degree surprised me. Seems like in our society that many people try to cover up things. They don't want to talk about their own addictions or their family problems. I am certainly not saying that everyone needs to know everything about everyone but rather be a support system for those that need it. My family is extremely important to me and I want to see Mike succeed in life therefore I am willing to share his story with you all in the hopes that if there is someone close to you that needs help, encouragement and support you might find it here. I want to know that he is getting the best treatment that is available to him through the resources we have in this community and yet he needs to be involved enough to have "skin in the game".
After picking him up from this assessment we then went to get a Missouri ID from the Department of Revenue. It was pretty quick and easy and we were out of there in 15 minutes or less. While in prison they helped him obtain his birth certificate and social security card so that he didn't have to get these things when he was released. (When they released him they gave him $12.50 because he had a GED, which he obtained while he was serving his sentence) His Missouri ID card cost $11.00.
We then checked in with the Division of Family Services. 10 days before he was released they helped him fill out the information to obtain food stamps. Something he didn't want to do but he had no choice. Currently he does not have a job and even though he will be helping us work on the property and living with his mom they are on a very limited budget and maybe he will only use this resource for a very short time. We waited in line at the building on Vandiver and there were people lined up. They could tell that we have never been there before and were very helpful (thank goodness). We learned that you wait in line to get your name on the list and then you wait 3-4 hours to be seen. My heart was sad to think all of these people (20 or so) had to wait several hours just to talk to someone about food stamps. (Not sure what else they do in this specific office as we only asked about food stamps) 3 ladies and 1 man said this was a "light" day for them and normally the line just to get on the list is down and around the corner and you might wait 5-6 hours to see someone. I just couldn't imagine and my heart truly goes out to each and everyone that goes through this yet they were understanding and helpful even though they had been there a while. Several of them had small children with them. Seems like they would be able to do something different such as call and make an appointment without incurring expense of getting transportation to get there, dragging their small children out to set there for hours on end. Just really opens your eyes to be thankful for the things we have yet never take them for granted. We got through that line fairly quickly and luckily they said they will call with an appointment next week as they were backed up and hadn't had time to process his paperwork just yet.
I was so proud of Mike at this point. Before leaving he wanted to talk to a case worker about his past child support on a good faith and figure out how to get it paid back. The case worker was super sweet and very understanding. She was so surprised that Mike had only been out 1 day and came over there to figure out what he needs to do to make things right. She even gave him a couple examples of places he could go to look for employment at they hired ex-felons at a great wage. He is certainly on the right path and wants to get the state paid and behind him even if this wasn't a stipulation of his prole/probation.
We got all of this done in time for me to head to a lunch meeting in Rocheport. I dropped Mike off with Brandon and they got to get caught up. When my lunch was over I picked him back up and it was time to get him some much needed clothes! He had a too big polo style shirt, cargo shorts, old tennis shoes and a few personal items when he was released. We couldn't expect him to work on a fresh start with just that and we didn't want to take advantage of the resources available to others so we went shopping!
He did great! A lot of times when people have been locked up for many years they don't like to be around a lot of people. We started out at JC Penny then went inside the mall to Shoe Dept, Eddie Bauer, Target then over to Kohl's. He did awesome and you honestly wouldn't have thought this was a big deal to him. I stayed close and kept an eye on him and he really enjoyed our day. I made him try everything on as we all know different brands fit differently! We got a lot of jeans, shirts, sweatshirts, socks, underwear, tennis shoes and work boots. We even got a winter coat! We then got all the basic things such as soap, shampoo, razors, etc. At least he feels as if his transition will be smoother once he can be appropriately dressed which will hopefully allow others not to judge him but rather be willing to guide him to the next step. It was nice seeing him smile and enjoy this new adventure.
It was a great day and I learned so much about things I have never experienced before. It makes you really stop and think about life and the choices we make.... sometimes these choices are a direct result of things we do and sometimes they are a direct result of choices others make yet you are affected because you are a part of their life. Something positive can always come out of something negative.... you just have to be willing to stick your neck out there and try something different... something positive. It doesn't happen overnight but it can happen.... it just takes 1 person to believe in you.