The Story Behind the Story
By Prince Nwankudu
A Motivation to Motivate Others
It is not always easy to bounce back after a life crisis that drives one to the bottom of the social scale. Many of those who are homeless today arrived where they are due to life circumstances, or major life mistakes. Some of these people have made deeply regrettable mistakes in the past, and some are on the streets due to no fault of their own. Whatever the reasons are, our role is to give them a second chance at a productive life.
I was once in need of a second chance, and I was given that second chance. Over a decade ago, I made a once-in-a-lifetime terrible business mistake that landed me in legal trouble. After serving the time, I lost everything and became homeless. I was fortunate to not have ended up on the streets, but couch surfed and later lived in my brother-in-law’s basement for six years. With a criminal record hanging over my head, I was doomed to a life of misery were it not for a second chance. During that lowest point in my life, it was unimaginable to hope for a day such as this, when I could give back to the community. As a man of faith, I believe God helped me immensely, but He used people like every one of you here today to encourage me and give me hope for a better future.
Since my release, I have attained two master's degrees graduating summa cum laude, and I am currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program. Thanks to my family, friends, and church group who forgave, counseled, and comforted me, I was able to bounce back. Today, I draw from my lived experience and have dedicated the rest of my life to serving the community.
Therefore, I am very optimistic that Revive Alaska Community Services’ programs will not only provide immediate relief for our neighbors who are struggling, but enable them to bounce back into active living and become capable of giving back to the community. Our programs are purposely designed not to be a handout, but a hand-up. They are integrated and comprehensive to address the needs of the whole person and offer these struggling neighbors a second chance at independent stability.
1. The Comfort Homes project and other RACS housing projects incorporate a 12-month supportive housing services program, through which all Comfort Homes residents will have a second chance to get back into active and productive living. This supportive housing service called the Homeless Entrepreneur Learning Program (HELP), in partnership with an international agency based in Barcelona, Spain is a second chance program. The HELP program provides a direct pathway to independence by incentivizing further education, facilitating employment opportunities, and fostering entrepreneurial activities. It is a holistic one-year program that targets the root causes of homelessness on a case-by-case basis, in order to create sustainable change, transformation, and restoration to active citizenship. Therefore, the Comfort Homes project is not a handout, but a second chance hand-up.
2. The Revive Alaska Food Pantry. Affording three square meals plus in-between snacks a day is now a luxury for many households given the rising inflation. Food insecurity is no longer a problem of the poor and lower class, it is now a rising problem among the struggling middle class. The focus of our pantry is to give a second chance to the working poor and struggling, middle class. In partnership with the Food Bank of Alaska and compassionate neighbors, RACS serves the community through weekly food distribution. RACS food pantry plans to incorporate a hot-meal cafe for the struggling middle class and working poor in the coming months. The plan is to offer these struggling families a hot, sit-down, restaurant-style meal once a week without having to line up at a soup kitchen for a meal. This plan will save them the shame while they get back on their feet and further help them keep their lights on, put gas in their cars, and even stay in their homes by saving up money they would have spent eating out.
3. Childcare and Bridge Education for children experiencing homelessness is a program that allows children of struggling families to remain stable in their education while their parents work to get back on their feet. Low-income and homeless families find it difficult to afford childcare services. Children from homeless families have a strong need for childcare due to their peculiar living conditions. RACS plans to provide this service and give both the children and their parents a second chance.
4. Bridge the Gap Initiative is our racial healing and reconciliation department. Here we aspire to an inclusive model of equality, bridging the gap to create equal opportunities for BIPOC community members. Our emphasis is on racial reconciliation, and the healing of trauma caused by racism. Therefore, we create balance by offering personal development, job/business workshops, youth empowerment, and more, so that BIPOC community members can qualify for the equal opportunities that are created. Thereby creating a practicable second chance for the BIPOC community to excel in all areas of life.