City SOAR program boasts high employment rate

City SOAR program boasts high employment rate
January 11
01:00 2018

The city’s Successful Outcomes After Release (SOAR) is boasting a 65 percent employment rate for former offenders that completed its work experience program.

SOAR began in 2014 with $100,000 to help former offenders re-enter society and has grown with $276,150 in funds for this fiscal year. Half the money goes to grants for programs that help former offenders and at-risk youth. The other half goes to a work experience program in which the city temporarily hires former offenders to work 25 hours a week for six months at $11 an hour.

According to a report on SOAR presented to the Public Safety Committee this week, the work experience program has had 36 participants, with 26 graduating from the program. There were eight that involuntarily separated from the program for various reasons and two that are still in it.

Of the 26 that graduated, 17 have found employment, which means 65 percent of graduates have secured jobs.

“Sixty-Five percent is really phenomenal,” said City Manager Lee Garrity. “What staff has done is just amazing.”

Of those 17, eight have full-time employment. Many have gone on to work for city departments like Recreation & Parks, Community Development and Properties & Facilities Management. Others have found work at K&W Cafeterias, B.E. Aerospace, Sonic, KFC and Aon. The latest SOAR class was also taught useful skills by community partners like financial literacy, cognitive behavioral strategies and cooking.

The other half of SOAR funds have gone to many different community agencies. For two years in a row, Piedmont Triad Regional Council’s Project Re-Entry has gotten the largest grant, with $41,150. The program offers pre- and post-release planning and services with an 8.9 percent recidivism rate. The program has a 77 percent employment rate for participants in its case management and trainings. Last fiscal year, the program served 332 new participants.

Eureka Ministries has received $20,000 for the last three years. It offers transitional housing and permanent housing placement among its services for former offenders.  The program found permanent housing for 36 homeless ex-offenders last fiscal year.

Southside Rides has received three $10,000 SOAR grants over the years, which it uses to teach auto body repair to at-risk youth and former offenders. There was no recidivism among its participants last fiscal year.

Self-Employment Lasts Forever – Taking a Giant Step (TAGS) Re-Entry Program has received $10,000 grants for the past four years. Last fiscal year,  21 former offenders participated, 16 of whom were placed in jobs, with 85 percent of enrollees maintaining employment.

Other recipients have included the YWCA Hawley House/Project New Start, Josh Howard Foundation, Salvation Army and Beating Up Bad Habits.

SOAR has given $5,000 seed fund grants to Hoops4Lyfe, My Brother’s Second Chance, Silver Lining Youth Services, Boys2Men Mentorship Program and Honorable Youth. Seed funds go to direct program expenses and are contingent on attending capacity building training designed to help those agencies compete for funding through the community agency funding process.

City Council Member and Chronicle Publisher James Taylor, who spearheaded the creation of SOAR, said he was pleased with the program’s progress.

“This program certainly makes a difference in the lives of the people in this community.” said Taylor. “… This program certainly helps us fight poverty.  This program certainly helps us reduce recidivism.”

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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