As you look for community resources for yourself or for someone you care about, consider the following:

Good resources can be hard to find

Even the 211 database is not comprehensive. Community resources are often attached to temporary funding and come and go before they’re ever listed. Other services are attached to the big hearts of individuals who help outside the mainstream and don’t qualify to be listed.  And some services are one-off events like workshops and job fairs which you might see advertised but you’re unlikely to see on a list.  So keep looking and keep asking for leads until you find what you need. Don’t hang up the phone without asking, “Who else out there might have what I need?” and “If you were me, what would you do?”

What’s for the general public is also for you

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 background. So forget about your background and ask for what you need. 

Visualizing success isn’t as important as visualizing the barriers to success

A common mistake people make when setting goals, is that they don’t anticipate the things that might get in the way. So visualize the goal — get really clear about what your life will be like if you achieve what you want. And while you’re at it, get really clear about what your live will be like if you don’t achieve what you want.  But make sure to visualize the barriers too.  Spend time meditating on all the things that might get in your way — and, more particularly, what you will do to get past these barriers if they arise.

Resourcefulness has a lot to do with making the most of what’s in hand

Take a look at the “One Red Paperclip” video. Not many people are wired to trade-up in this way. However, when you know what you’re after and you look for opportunities that move you in the direction of your goal — one tiny step at a time — it is absolutely possible to achieve goals that seem totally unrealistic at the start.

Focusing too much on immediate needs can be a trap

When you’re hungry, it’s natural to think only of food. However, you don’t want to get caught in a situation where the help you’re seeking only puts food in your mouth. You should have in mind also making a way to keep food on your table.  So meet your needs — but stay a step ahead of them.  Always ask yourself, what’s next? What has to happen for this need to no longer be a need in my life? And put as much energy into that as you put into meeting the need itself.

Some answers might be right under your nose

Help doesn’t have to be professional. Consider reaching out to your family, friends, and associates who you admire, especially if they’ve been in similar circumstances and can empathize with you.  Just make sure that they don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution — namely, theirs.  You want them to “understand” because they’ve been there, not to “know” because they’ve been there. There are ten thousand ways to recover from incarceration and one of them is yours and yours alone.

Watch out for guru leaders

Unfortunately, the helping field attracts all kinds of needy helpers. Therefore, you should be careful not to get caught up with people or programs with personal agendas. While they may have something to offer, when push comes to shove, they will always put their needs ahead of yours. This isn’t necessarily a reason to decline their services. However, it is good to know where you stand. Be wary of organizations that promote their philosophy over their services, that lift up their leader like a prophet, that believe everyone needs what they have, or that claim that no one else can do what they can.  These organizations and their guru leaders actually need you more than you need them. So be extremely cautious about taking their help.