The following checklist assumes that you have short term access to food, shelter, and clothing. If not, you should find a phone and call 211 immediately to find out what emergency services are available in the area.
Be careful about your first contacts. Reaching out to the wrong people could make things unnecessarily complicated as you’re trying to rebuild your life. Ask yourself: Do they need to know? Do they have my best interest at heart? Can they help me to move on with my life? Your last call from prison should be to arrange a ride home and to let the person responsible for your shelter know to expect you soon. On your way home, make a list of your first contacts and and make sure to include:Your immediate family members
Anyone you are required to report to
The few people who want you to stay out the most
The one person who will serve as your mentor and hold you accountable
You might also want to make a second list of the people who want you back in the game the most — and make a concentrated effort to stay away from them.
Connective technology is increasingly important in just about every area of our lives — including looking for services, finding employment opportunities, and filling out applications. Fortunately, it’s not hard to get connected for free in Chattanooga.Get a library card and learn about their public computers
Visit the American Job Center and learn about their public computers
Order a free Lifeline phone www.lifelinesupport.org/ls
Set up a free Google account
Set up a free Google Voice account
Find out where there is free internet at http://www.chattanooga.gov/it/nooganet
We recommend Google because of its suite of free applications which can be helpful in your job search. Not only can you create and save documents, manage a calendar for appointments, and keep track of your contacts — but you can set up a free online phone with Google Voice. When you set up a Google Voice account, you will get a local phone number which you can keep indefinitely. You need a mobile phone to set it up. But a Lifeline phone will do. And once it’s set up, you will always have a phone number with voicemail and texting. You just need to be connected to the internet and you can use Google Voice — even when you’re out of minutes on your Lifeline phone.
Gather all your identification and apply for replacements as needed. For employment purposes, you will need a Social Security Card and a State Issued Picture ID. To learn what other identification can be used for employment, get in touch with the American Job Center in Chattanooga. You should have the original or a legal replacement of all of the following identifications which you are eligible for:Birth Certificate
Social Security Card (not laminated)
Driver License (reinstatement information can be found at https://dl.safety.tn.gov)
State Issued Picture ID (if you are ineligible for a Driver License at this time)
Veteran ID Card
Proof of Citizenship
Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood
Getting replacement identification can be tricky. If you need help, get in touch with 211 First Call for Help and ask for information about agencies that provide transportation and monetary assistance for identification.
You can get most of the clothing you need by calling the thrifts stores listed in this resource directory, explaining that you just got out of prison and asking if they are able to help you with free clothes. Call around until you have identified places to go for the following:Casual shoes
First change of clothes (casual)
Second change of clothes (work)
Third change of clothes (interview)
Fourth change of clothes (religious service)
Jacket appropriate for the season
Short Material List
You’ll want to be very clear about the things you need to purchase first to be ready for your next step. Start with the list below and add to it according to your circumstances. This will help you to prioritize how to spend the limited money you have. And, if people you meet want to give you a hand because you just got out of prison, you’ll know what to ask them for.Bus pass (2-3 months)
Money for identifications
Pocket cash for job search
Pads of paper
Wal-Mart gift card (for clothing and other miscellaneous items)
Human Services & Community Support
Just because you’re a former offender doesn’t mean you qualify only for services intended for former offenders. You are also part of the general public. And there are many services which are open to the general public and don’t discriminate on the basis of a criminal cconviction. You should make a list of the services you would benefit from and call 211 First Call for Help to see what is available.Make appointments with services found through First Call for Help
Apply for SNAP at Department of Human Services
Apply to reinstate VA, SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, Medicare, and other benefits
If you owe Child Support, get in touch with the court. Don’t wait
If you are taking prescription medication, get in touch with Homeless Healthcare
Review the list of support groups and start attending as appropriate
Connect with your religious community and get involved. Don’t ask for help.
Employment & Education
If you would like to get a college degree, now is the time to do it. You will be eligible for more financial aid immediately after you’re released from prison than you will during the years after you start earning money. Plus nothing convinces an employer that you can be trusted more than earning degree after release. And you’ll be eligible for higher paying jobs. The absolute best help in Chattanooga for pursuing a degree is at Educational Opportunities.Request a Job Seeker’s Primer from Chattanooga Endeavors
Call Educational Opportunities if you want to pursue a college degree
Call Chattanooga State if you need a GED or technical degree
Schedule a meeting at the American Job Center
Set up an account on Indeed.com
Chattanooga Endeavors addresses many issues that are unique to former offenders as they look for a job that will lead to a living wage. Among other job search strategies, you will learn how to turn your prison time into an asset during the interview process, where the hidden job market is for former offenders, why you shouldn’t count on lists of felony friendly employers, and the down side of programs like the popular (and relatively useless) “Ban The Box” campaign — as well as little know facts like you might be eligible for unemployment benefits if you were employed when you were locked up and it’s been less than a year since you received your last paycheck.