How reentry cash assistance gave Heather housing security during COVID

Jul 29, 2022   |  By Emily Montgomery

For Heather, a Colorado native, things were looking good in 2020 for the first time in awhile.

She was released from incarceration in December of 2019 and the following February she began job training and transitional work with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), a reentry employment provider.

But she was having trouble securing a permanent position.

“By the time the pandemic hit, I was actually looking for a job,” Heather said. “I had been hired at a couple different places and worked, and then once they got my background check back they let me go.”

Then she learned about the Returning Citizen Stimulus (RCS) program launched by CEO in April 2020. Through the RCS program, CEO distributed over $24 million in cash assistance to more than 10,000 people returning from incarceration to their families and communities, including Heather.

Heather, who was recently featured in a New York Times article about the RCS program, said that these funds helped her secure a place to live.

“I was able to pay the deposit and to move in,” Heather said. “After being in jail, and living with family, it was very significant for me to have a place that was mine.”

Heather has two teenage sons, and says that being able to host them when they visit is invaluable.

“It’s phenomenal. I hadn’t had my own place in several years,” she said.

RCS funds also allowed her to purchase a car, which helped her secure employment.

Heather, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, is now working as a cat care technician at the MaxFund Adoption Center, a no-kill animal shelter in Denver.

She says that her financial security is significantly better than it was two years ago, thanks in part to the RCS funds.

“RCS absolutely changed my life,” Heather added. “For once I’m proud of myself, and my parents are so proud of me.”