Reentry cash assistance meant much more than money for Billy

Jul 15, 2022   |  By Eric Borsuk

Billy has been enjoying spending time with his family, including his two boys, who are both in their twenties now, as well as learning to appreciate new outdoor activities, like camping, hiking, and visits to the beach.

Things were much harder when he was released.

“When I first got out, I was blown away by how much had changed,” Billy says. “I felt like I was in another world. The thing that surprised me the most was how many more homeless people were living on the streets.”

Fortunately, Billy’s own living situation was taken care of, so he didn’t have to worry about that, but reentry provided another set of challenges for the 58-year-old, Bay Area native, particularly money and employment.

Billy returned home after decades of incarceration, thanks to a sentence reduction as part of Prosecutor-Initiated Resentencing (PIR), led by the California-based, national nonprofit, For the People. But with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, steady employment was hard to come by. His friends at For the People recommended the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) and their Returning Citizens Stimulus (RCS), a reentry cash assistance program.

“The RCS payments really helped me out,” Billy says. “I was able to use it for things like food, gas, and bills.” He says the assistance went beyond just money for him. “It helped me keep my spirits up while staying motivated and positive. It was encouraging to see that there was actually support out there to help me get back on my feet. That was a big deal. It really touched me.”

In the coming months, he and his fiancé are planning on getting married. They had gotten engaged when Billy was still incarcerated but wanted to wait until he was released to officially tie the knot.

“I left that old Billy back in prison,” he says. “This is the new and improved Billy. If you think positively, then positive things will happen in your life. Look at me—I’m out, I’m happy, I’m free.”