Aaron’s Story: From prison to business owner
“I come from a gang background,” Aaron says. “I’ve always had a street mentality, that was just my life.” Growing up surrounded by street gangs in Northern California’s East Bay, Aaron says that he always expected to end up in prison one day, and unfortunately, his fears eventually became a reality. However, after his incarceration, Aaron says that his mindset about life had changed.
“When I got out, I knew that I wanted to do something better. I didn’t want to waste my life in prison. I wanted to do right for my family. I didn’t want my kids to grow up influenced by the street mentality like I was.”
Because of his criminal record, Aaron found it hard to reintegrate into society after incarceration. He says that even his tattoos caused some employers to deny him employment. Soon, he found himself homeless and living on the streets with his girlfriend and their newborn twins. Eventually, they were able to gain access to a small car. Most nights Aaron would sleep outside on a bench, while his girlfriend stayed inside the vehicle with their infants since there wasn’t enough room for all of them in the car.
“We were doing bad,” Aaron says. “I was really down and depressed. It was tough living on the streets with newborns and trying to provide food for them. I wanted something better for them and myself.”
Then Aaron heard that the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) was offering jobs on transitional work crews and he immediately signed up. Through this opportunity, he also found out about CEO’s Returning Citizens Stimulus (RCS) program, which offered cash assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals in need.
“I really needed help and CEO made sure that I got it,” Aaron says. “It allowed me to get my life back together. I just wanted to house my family and have money to eat. Because of the RCS program, I was able to feed my babies and myself. Without it, I don’t know what I would’ve done.”
Through RCS assistance, Aaron was able to secure housing for himself and his family. After that, he says that everything in his life started to fall into place, and this newfound stability allowed him to secure full-time employment. Today, Aaron is a CCTV inspector, which involves using remote-controlled cameras to capture video of internal pipe conditions to assess for damage and ensure proper drainage.
Because of his full-time employment, Aaron was able to save up money and start his own business, a party rental service called Los Gemelos Party Rentals, meaning “the twins”. Starting with only business cards and an inflatable children’s bounce house, little by little he added more equipment and accommodations, to the point where he is now able to serve multiple parties.
“Things are going much better now for me because of the RCS program,” Aaron says. “I’m not on the streets anymore, and I’m still living in the same house that CEO helped me get. We don’t have much, but what I do have is my freedom, and my children have a home. I don’t ever want to live like that again.”