In 2020, Eric traveled to Charlotte from New Jersey for his brother’s funeral. At that time, he was struggling not having his own place for him and his daughter, Alexandria, now 11 years old. With his mom’s encouragement, he wanted to find new direction here, but the stigma of an old conviction continues to prevent him from finding stable employment and housing.
When Eric was 25 years old, he was convicted of a felony, and he served eight years in prison. He is still being punished, almost 25 years after serving his time.
Opportunities are limited for individuals with a felony on their record. “I expect to be judged when I am interviewing for a job or interviewing for housing,” shares Eric. “Society puts a stigma on people with felonies. I have a high level of acceptance. I accept that I made a mistake and expect people to judge me who don’t know me on a personal level,” he said.
April is Second Chance Month. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the unemployment rate for the formerly incarcerated is currently 27%: a higher unemployment rate than the nation’s in the worst of the Great Depression. This month is a chance to remember people like Eric who’ve experienced what’s known as “civil death” — the loss of all or almost all of a person’s civil rights due to a felony conviction. Civil death is something numerous Roof Above guests like Eric are all too familiar with. Returning from incarceration, they face enormous barriers to housing and employment.
But in response to a system of civil death, there is an opportunity for new life.
“I have learned from past experiences that when you get an opportunity, take advantage to the fullest,” said Eric. Eric came to Roof Above in May 2021. He spent the first five months at a motel funded by the County before moving into the Howard Levine Men’s Shelter on the first day it opened in September.
At the time, he was on a years-long waiting list for Inlivian Housing. This is when his case manager, Tiauna, encouraged him to try getting a job and apply to Roof Above’s MeckHOME program. MeckHOME is a shared housing program for employed individuals. Tenants pay a percentage of rent and receive an exit bonus upon successful transition from the program.
Eric has a strong resume, including experience as an assistant manager at the Raleigh Convention Center. He posted his resume on Indeed and was soon getting calls from the airport, convention center, local hospitals, but the long-standing barriers remained.
“I had a really good conversation with a recruiter at the airport. She was so excited about my resume and my experience; I had the qualifications she was looking for. When I asked her about the background check…I could hear her disappointment through the phone,” sighs Eric.
Eric remained undeterred though and continued working to find the right role. Soon Eric was offered a job with Novant.
With this employment in place, he is now in a great position for the MeckHOME program. Eric is expecting a call from his case manager, Tiauna, within the next two weeks for his move in date. “Everything is falling into place. God positions us when we allow him to take control,” said Eric.
Employment and housing offer Eric a fresh start for him and his family. He is focused on working hard and saving enough money to buy a home for himself and his daughter, Alexandria, who currently lives in New Jersey with her aunt.
“She is so smart, it scares me to death,” Eric shares proudly through tears. “I try to teach her the importance of education and to be aware of influences to avoid like cigarettes and alcohol. I encourage her to be her own person.” Eric loves that his daughter loves school. “Alexandria tells me she wants to be a principal or a teacher,” said Eric.
“Roof Above has been a Godsend for me. I have background advocates,” said Eric. “From where I came from, I can’t imagine being in a better position to move forward.”